Mauritania's president was shot by soldiers Saturday night in what the government is calling an accident.

President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz appeared on television from his hospital bed to call for calm Sunday morning, and then was flown to Paris for treatment, Reuters reported.

Seen by as a Western ally against al Qaeda's rising presence in the in the Sahara, Abdel Aziz has ruled over a northwest African country that has been largely stable since he seized power in a 2008 coup. He won an election in 2009.

He was wounded late on Saturday when a military patrol opened fire on his convoy about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital, Nouakchott, the government said. A medical source said he had been shot in the abdomen.

"I want to calm all citizens," Abdel Aziz said in a broadcast on state television from his hospital bed. "I want to reassure everyone about my state of health after this incident committed by error."

"I want to reassure the citizens of Mauritania that the operation I underwent yesterday evening was a success thanks to the efficiency of the medical team that carried it out," he said.

Initially, Mauritanian radio reported that Abdel Aziz had escaped an assassination attempt, the BBC reported.

Many in Nouakchott are ready to believe the president was shot by mistake as they are used to seeing him walk in the city, play sports and drive his car without guards.

Some local reports cited by the BBC said Abdel Aziz was targeted by a militant Islamic  group while travelling from Tweila, north of the capital, where he spends most weekends.

Abdel Aziz's government launched numerous military operations on Islamist bases in neighboring Mali before a rebellion split that country in two, leaving much of it in the hands of heavily armed groups linked to al Qaeda.