[Marxism] US' North African ally overthrown in military coup
calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 4 09:34:34 MDT 2005
U.S.-Allied Leader of Mauritania Overthrown
Thursday, August 4, 2005; Page A14
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, Aug. 3 -- A military junta overthrew Mauritania's
U.S.-allied president Wednesday, saying it would temporarily rule the Muslim
West African nation whose government had recently forged ties with the West
and had warned of a growing threat from Islamic militants linked to al
No casualties were reported in the quick takeover, and President Maouya Sidi
Ahmed Taya was out of the country when presidential guard troops took
control of the national radio and television stations and seized the
headquarters of the army chief of staff.
President Maouya Sidi Ahmed Taya, shown in an image from a 2003 video, had
cracked down on opponents he accused of being Islamic extremists.
(Mauritania Tv Via Associated Press)
Taya, who took power in a 1984 coup, has allied himself with the United
States in the war on terror and cracked down ruthlessly on opponents he
accuses of being Islamic extremists. He refused to comment after arriving
Wednesday in nearby Niger from Saudi Arabia, where he had attended King
A group of army officers, calling itself the Military Council for Justice
and Democracy, announced the coup in a statement. "The armed forces have
unanimously decided to put an end to the totalitarian practices of the
deposed regime under which our people have suffered," it said.
The junta said it would exercise power for as long as two years to allow
time for the building of "open and transparent" democratic institutions.
Taya, who is in his sixties, was expected to remain in Niger temporarily.
The opposition and some international groups have accused Taya of
exaggerating the threat of Islamic extremism. He has jailed scores of
Islamic activists and members of the army, accusing them of being terrorists
or plotting to overthrow him after a 2003 coup attempt.
The United States recently stepped up military cooperation with Mauritania
as part of a new counterterrorism initiative in Africa. In June, U.S.
Special Forces troops spent three weeks in the country training infantry
In May, the International Crisis Group, a research organization based in
Brussels, warned that if Mauritania became closely linked to U.S.
anti-terror policy and overreacted to the domestic threat of Islamic
terrorism, the move could prove a "very costly mistake."
In the capital Wednesday, most shops and offices remained closed. Heavily
armed troops deployed around government buildings and patrolled the streets.
The international airport was closed. But hundreds of people celebrated in
the streets, saluting soldiers and singing slogans against Taya.
"It's the end of a long period of oppression and injustice," said Fidi Kane,
a civil servant. "We are very delighted with this change of regime."
African leaders, however, condemned the power grab, saying the days of
autocracy and military rule must give way to democracy across the continent.
"The days of tolerating military governance in our subregion or anywhere are
long gone," said Femi Fani-Kayode, a spokesman for Nigeria's government. "We
insist on democracy."
The Bush administration also condemned the takeover in the nation of 3
million people. A State Department spokesman called for a "peaceful return
to order under the constitution and the established government." The State
Department warned Americans in Mauritania to remain at home, but the U.S.
Embassy was open.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan also condemned "any attempt to change the
government of any country unconstitutionally," according to a statement.
Oil was recently discovered off Mauritania's Atlantic coast, and the country
is expected to begin pumping crude early next year.
Islamic leaders in Mauritania have criticized Taya for opening diplomatic
relations with Israel in 1999 and for breaking ties with Iraq after he
supported Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Some Islamic
opponents have been accused of collaborating with the Salafist Group for
Call and Combat, an Algerian group on the U.S. list of terrorist groups.
Staff writers Ann Scott Tyson and Robin Wright in Washington contributed to
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