Fighting erupted in the capital of the Arab-dominated west African nation of Mauritania today in an apparent coup attempt against the country’s pro-West leader, broadcast reports said.
The reported coup attempt follows a crackdown on alleged Islamic extremists by President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya.
The al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya TV stations reported clashes and tank cannon fire around the presidential palace in what they described as a failed coup attempt.
Relative calm returned after about two hours of fighting, the state-run news agency in neighbouring Morocco reported.
It blamed the alleged coup attempt on armoured units within Mauritania’s military.
Telephones lines were inoperable to the Sahara Desert nation this morning, and it was not immediately possible to learn more.
Mauritania’s government has cracked down on Islamic activists since the Iraq war, initially to try to prevent any Islamic shows of support for Iraq. Dozens of Islamic leaders were arrested last month for allegedly using mosques to recruit young men as fighters.
Mauritania’s Arab-led government has tried to balance a strongly Islamic nation with Westward looking foreign policy.
Mauritania is one of only three Arab nations to hold diplomatic relations with Israel.