Army says seizes power in Mauritania

(Judging by the US and Isreali interests that are represented and at risk, I would guess that action from the US/UN will be forthcoming…never mind that we allow the genocide in Sudan to continue…we have no strategic partners there, it’s just people being slaughtered…..cd)
Mauritania
NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) – Mauritania’s army said on Wednesday it had seized power to end the “totalitarian” regime of President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, who is out of the country, and planned to rule for up to two years.
The 53-nation African Union said it condemned all seizure of power by force and Taya’s PRDS party urged all political forces to denounce the coup, but in the capital hundreds of people took to the streets, shouting and honking car horns in celebration.
Convoys of cars with people hanging out of them shouting “Praise Be to God” and making victory signs paraded down one of Nouakchott’s main sand-blanketed avenues.
“The armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the totalitarian activities of the defunct regime under which our people have suffered so much over recent years,” said a statement signed by a “Military Council for Justice and Democracy.”
“This council pledges before the Mauritanian people to create favorable circumstances for an open and transparent democracy,” the statement, broadcast on state media said.
Taya, who attended the funeral of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd in Riyadh Tuesday, arrived in Niger’s capital Niamey hours after the first reports of troop movements in Nouakchott.
Witnesses said that green-bereted members of Taya’s guard had taken over state television and radio. Gunfire rang out briefly near the presidency building and the airport was closed.
An opposition leader and a military source said they believed the head of the presidential guard, Colonel Mohamed Ould Abdel-Aziz, was involved in the coup d’etat.
There were reports that some senior members of the military had been arrested but it was not possible to confirm them.
TIES WITH ISRAEL
Taya seized power in a 1984 coup. He has angered many Arabs in the country by shifting support from former Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein to
Israel and Washington in the 1990s.
Mauritania — which hopes to start pumping oil early next year — is one of only three Arab League member states that have established diplomatic ties with Israel.
It is also one of the most repressive countries in the region toward Islamist movements, analysts say.
“There was no democracy here … We have been freed from a dictatorship,” said one man, Bilal, aged around 45.
Scores of Islamic opposition activists have been arrested since April and accused of colluding with Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an al Qaeda ally.
Dissident soldiers nearly toppled Taya in 2003 during two days of fighting in Nouakchott before loyalist forces prevailed. The government says it foiled two more coup bids in 2004.
Earlier, shops in Nouakchott shut down in a hurry and taxis refused to pick up people trying to leave the city center.
“I heard a burst of gunfire near the presidency. I saw scared people running away. Civil servants have all left their offices,” a Reuters witness in the capital said.
“All the army is in the streets. It’s blocking the roads to the presidency and the main routes through town,” a civil servant who lives near the presidency building told Reuters.
A witness on the border with Senegal said Mauritanian guards were stopping people from leaving the country.
The United States has been sending military experts to train soldiers in Mauritania and other countries in the region to combat militants thought to be operating in the Sahara.
The U.S. European Command, which overseas U.S. military operations in 91 countries and territories in Europe and most of Africa, said it was monitoring the situation closely.
(Additional reporting by Diadie Ba, Nick Tattersall in Dakar)