Military council takes over power in Mauritania

Nouakchott (dpa) - A military council took over power in the west African coastal state of Mauritania Wednesday following a coup, reports said.
In its first statement, the military council said it aimed to ''abolish the dictatorship rule of (President) Tayeh's regime.'' The coup, al-Jazeera news channel reported, was led by the head of the Presidential Guard, Mohammed Weld Abdel Aziz.

The state news agency and television channel also reported the successful coup and quoted the military council as saying its members had ''unanimously decided to put an end to the repressive rule that our people has suffered from in the past years''.

The military council announced a two-year transition rule to prepare for democratic elections.

Al-Jazeera quoted a Mauritanian analyst in Paris as saying that loyalists of ousted President Mouawiya Weld Tayeh were arrested between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Residents of the capital Nouakchott woke up Wednesday to repeated unconfirmed reports of a military coup and a marked military presence in the downtown area where vital government buildings are located.

Coup leaders were reported to have gained control over the television and radio building, the police department and the airport.

The coup took place while Tayeh was in Riyadh paying condolences for the death of Saudi King Fahd. Both al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya news channels reported that Tayeh arrived in Niger Wednesday.

Al-Jazeera quoted a Mauritanian journalist in Nouakchott saying there were unconfirmed reports that a plane carrying Tayeh from Riyadh was not allowed to land in the capital at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Eyewitnesses said large groups of residents were seen leaving the city as government departments, banks and most commercial shops closed down.

Small military vehicles equipped with machines guns roamed the streets and converged around strategic locations, including the presidential palace and television and radio building.

The local state radio, the main source of news for locals, was not operational and citizens complained of fuel shortage in the capital.

Earlier Wednesday, gunshots were reported to be heard near the presidential palace in Nouakchott.

Mauritanian journalist Mohammed Salem Weld Dadeh told al-Jazeera that no casualties were reported in the capital.

Tayeh loyalists foiled two coup attempts in 2004 and a third in 2003. Tayeh ruled Mauritania for 21 years following a military coup in 1984. He was a staunch ally of the U.S., a factor which has made him enemies in the Islamic Republic.

The mostly desert country on the western edge of the Sahara has around three million inhabitants. dpa str ye hk pmc


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