Mauritanian military stages coup ’supported by population’ (Lead)

August 6th, 2008 - 7:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Nouakchott (Mauritania), Aug 6 (DPA) Mauritanian military officers Wednesday staged a coup following the sacking of several of them, arresting the president and prime minister, sources associated with the presidency said. Troops entered the presidential palace and arrested President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Radio France Internationale (RFI) quoted his daughter as saying.

Sources associated with the presidency said Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf were being held under house arrest.

Organisers of the coup were believed to include the head of the presidential guard, who had been sacked along with several other high-ranking officers just before.

Local observers reported demonstrations in favour of the coup by Mauritanians who accused the president of corruption and described him as having done a poor job in running the north-west African desert country.

Troop movements were reported in the streets of the capital Nouakchott, but there were no reports of violence or detentions.

Local television and radio went off the air.

Cheikh Abdallah was elected in 2007 in a vote described as the first really transparent presidential election in the Islamic Republic, a former French colony.

The vote capped a series of polls that were seen as having turned Mauritania into an African democracy model following a history of coups and the 1984-2005 dictatorship of Maaouya Ould Taya.

Recently, however, Cheikh Abdallahi had run into political trouble, with 48 MPs walking out of the ruling party following a vote of no-confidence in the government.

Cheikh Abdallahi had elicited criticism by rejecting the establishment of a commission to investigate the financing of a foundation run by his wife.

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