News & Current Affairs

August 13, 2008

Al-Qaeda ‘warning’ for Mauritania

Al-Qaeda ‘warning’ for Mauritania

Gen Muhammad Ould Abdelaziz, 10 August 2008

Gen Abdelaziz has said he wants to tackle the roots of extremism

An internet message purporting to be from the North African wing of al-Qaeda has urged Mauritanians to take up arms against their coup leaders.

Last week, General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz and other military officers toppled the country’s first democratically-elected president.

Gen Abdelaziz said defeating extremism was one of his main priorities.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is largely based in Algeria but has been blamed for attacks in Mauritania.

The government said it killed four French tourists last December, an incident that prompted the cancellation of the Paris-Dakar car rally.

It also blamed the group for attacking the Israeli embassy in the capital, Nouakchott, in February.

The internet message alleges that despite wide condemnation of the coup by Western governments, it would not have been possible without the approval of France, the United States and Israel.

The statement is apparently signed by the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalik Droukdal.

The BBC’s James Copnall in Nouakchott says Mauritania is extremely poor, and its young people are increasingly radicalised.

In addition the country is almost entirely an empty desert, and the vast open spaces make it easy for illegal groups to avoid detection.

That is one of the reasons the US has funded the Mauritanian military, our reporter says – although that aid has been frozen following the coup.

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August 6, 2008

Troops stage coup in Mauritania

Troops stage coup in Mauritania

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The president and prime minister of Mauritania, in north-west Africa, have been taken into custody by soldiers in a military coup.

President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahia Ould Ahmed El-Ouakef are being held by men loyal to a general sacked by the president.

Mauritania staged elections in June 2007, two years after a military coup.

The country has been gripped by political crisis for a fortnight, after a vote of no confidence in the cabinet.

On Tuesday, 48 MPs walked out of the ruling party.

Unusual troop movements

Earlier on Wednesday, President Abdallahi replaced several senior army officers, including the head of the presidential guard, Gen Ould Abdelaziz.

Shortly afterwards, Gen Abdelaziz led soldiers in a coup against the president.

Officials loyal to the general said that all the officers sacked by the president have been re-instated.

A statement issued by them also said Mr Abdallahi was no longer president of Mauritania.

The first indications of a military coup came as state television was taken off the air amid reports of unusual troop movements in the capital, Nouakchott.

The president’s daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, told Reuters news agency soldiers seized her father at his house at 0920 local time (0920 GMT).

The streets of the capital are said to be calm with no violence reported.

Political instability

Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest nations as well as its newest oil producer.

The desert nation, a former French colony of more than three million people, has been looking to oil revenues to boost its economy.

Presidential elections held in 2007 ended a two-year period of military rule – the product of an earlier coup in 2005.

The elections were deemed to have been free and fair and appeared to herald a new era of democracy.

Earlier this year, however, the president dismissed the government amid protests over soaring food prices.

The cabinet that replaced it has been dogged by instability, lacking the support of a moderate Islamist party and a major opposition group that were in the former government.

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