Mauritania president Abdallahi arrested in coup

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mauritania's President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf were arrested Wednesday in a military coup in Nouakchott, the country's capital. The coup has shut down state radio and television.

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was the President of Mauritania until the coup
Image: Marcello Casal Jr./Abr.

"The security agents of the BASEP [Presidential Security Battalion] came to our home around 9:20 and took away my father," Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi said, confirming that presidential guardsmen seized her father.

Soldiers gathered at the presidential palace after Abdallahi replaced senior army officers during a political crisis in the northwest African country, one of the continent's newest oil producers which also mines iron, copper and gold.

A state council is forming under the command of former presidential guard chief Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. The council's "Statement No. 1", which was broadcast by Gulf-based al-Arabiya television, announced that Abdallahi is now a "former president" and that his previous decision of sacking Abdelaziz as the head of the presidential guard had been voided.

The country, which has a long history of military coups, staged free elections in June 2007, two years after a previous coup.