Mauritanian Army Stages Coup
Mauritanian President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was being held under house arrest in the capital Nouakchott on Wednesday, 6 August, after the presidential guard rounded up the country's civilian leadership.
Television stations were off the air but the streets of the capital were described as calm.
Other leading members of the government, including Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf, were also under house arrest.
The successful coup d'etat was launched after President Abdallahi sacked top military officers on Tuesday.
The former French colony has suffered from street disturbances sparked by rising food prices. A cabinet crisis worsened in recent days after a newly installed government lost a confidence motion in parliament.
Mauritania is emerging as one of West Africa's oil producers but the benefits of its potential wealth have not trickled down to the largely impoverished population.
Abdallahi became Mauritania's first democratically elected president last year after a period of transition supervised by a military council that deposed the previous president in August 2005. The largely desert country has had a history of coups since its independence from France in 1960.
A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, told the Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera by telephone that many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt. He described the government as "an authoritarian regime" and asserted that the president had "marginalized the majority in parliament."
The United States condemned the coup, saying it had ousted a democratically elected government. "This was a democratically elected, constitutional government and we condemn the act," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters.
The European Commission also condemned the coup and demanded that President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi be returned to power. The EU executive, which had allocated some 156 million euros of aid for the West African country for 2008-2013, said the coup could put this cooperation into question.