In a bloodless coup in the West African nation, senior army officers have arrested Mauritania's elected leadership and shut down the airport, state radio and television.
President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was taken away from his home by members of the Presidential Security Battalion (BASEP), hours after he fired senior army officers.
One of them, the sacked head of the presidential guard, General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, was said to be leading the coup, according to a statement on public radio.
In a statement broadcast by Gulf-based al-Arabiya television, General Aziz took leadership of a new “State Council” and released “communiqué No. 1” reversing the “former president's” decree sacking the top military officers.
According to the website of the Mauritanian journal Nouakchott Info, the coup leader is in talks with the president of the parliament Messaoud Ould Belkheir, and could potentially hold elections in two months.
President Abdallahi’s daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, told Reuters “the security agents of the BASEP came to our home around 9:20 (0920 GMT) and took away my father”.
She emphasized that it was “certainly a coup”, adding that “the phones have been cut”.
A presidency official who declined to be named said the prime minister and interior minister had also been arrested and taken to an unknown destination.
In the afternoon, police fired tear gas on a crowd of about 50 people gathered near one of the main markets, according to local journalists, but the capital of the nation of 3.1 million people was otherwise calm.
According to Isabel Fiadeiro, one of
State television and radio in
A set-back for democracy
The coup comes 15 months after Abdallahi came to power in elections hailed as a model of democracy for
“The Mauritanian army played a major role in the democratic transition and it looks like it is trying to put an end to that transition,” says
The political situation has been deteriorating in recent months. On Monday, 48 MPs walked out on the ruling party less than two weeks after a vote of no confidence in government prompted a cabinet reshuffle.
The MPs accused President Abdallahi of using excessive “personal power” and of having "disappointed the hopes of Mauritanians," a spokesman said.
“The spectre of the army was behind the MPs,”
“Mauritanians are against the presence of the army at the state's command,” says
There have been 10 attempted coups in
International condemnation against the coup
Strong condemnation came in from all quarters, including the UN, the European Union, the
The situation jeopardized the 156 million euros allocated in aid to the West African country for 2008-2013, according to EU Aid and Development Commissioner Louis Michel. “This situation could put into question our policy of cooperation with Mauritania.” he said.
He added that the president and prime minister should be returned to power.
The African Union released a statement saying “The AU (...) condemns the coup d'Etat and demands the restoration of constitutional legality”.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said that he "deeply regrets" the coup.
The secretary general of the Arab Maghreb Union has also been asked to head “immediately” to
The EU froze aid to
Date created : 2008-08-06