Mauritania takes tourists to red zone
Nouakchott - Mauritania has invited a group of French tourists to visit the north of the country and boost tourism which has been hard-hit by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the tourism ministry said on Monday.
A charter flight from Paris arrived in the mountainous northern region of Atar on Sunday to "lift this blockade which has completely shattered the economy of these northern regions", the ministry said in a statement.
Tourism operators have stopped working in the Atar region home to the towns of Ouadane and Chinguitti - a Unesco world heritage site - due to several kidnappings carried out by al-Qaeda's north African branch.
France, one of the main sources of tourism for the west African nation, has classified the north of the country as a "red zone" for tourists.
More than 130 people were on board the plane to Atar.
"These guests of Mauritania will see for themselves the level of effort provided to assure them the best trip to the desert under the best conditions. They will do the classic Atar-Chinguitti trip," read the statement.
The country wants foreign nations to lift notices advising their citizens against travel in Mauritania as security "circumstances have undergone huge changes".
The ministry says the country had stepped up security in tourist areas.
Attacks in Mauritania, such as the 2007 murder of four French tourists, saw the Dakar Rally which used to pass through the country cancelled, and moved to South America in 2009.