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Mauritania hunts Al Qaeda militants

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The Mauritanian government is on the hunt for militants who attacked a military convoy Monday, hoping to catch them before they sneak across the border into Algeria or Mali.

The cat-and-mouse game across the West African nation's vast desert areas is the first big security test for Mauritania's new military government, which seized power in an Aug. 6 coup that overthrew the country's first democratically elected president.

The Algeria-based Al Qaeda franchise, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for Monday's attack, in which militants ambushed soldiers, seizing 12.

The US has offered funds and training to Mauritania to help it fight the Al Qaeda-linked group, but cut such aid after the coup.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted a Mauritanian lawmaker as saying the military was confident it would catch the attackers by blocking desert transit points and using air reconnaissance.

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