Potential Hot Spots: June 12, 2003


: Mauritania's police have issued arrest warrants for a suspected coup leader Saleh Ould Hanenna and eight accomplices. Moroccan radio reported that 29 people had died (including five civilians) while 23 Mauritanian wounded soldiers had been flown to Morocco for treatment. 

Apparently, the coup lacked popular support. Over 250,000 Mauritanians took to the streets of Nouakchott on the 10th, in support of President Taya. A coup carried out by army commanders failed, while the government continues to crack down on Islamic extremists. That evening, the Mauritanian government summoned Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires to inform him of the permanent closure of a Saudi-linked Islamic school. The institute had 2,000 students from Mauritania and elsewhere in Africa. While the foreign teachers would be leaving "soon", the Mauritanian teachers at the institute have been detained since May 20. 

The details of the coup attempt are now somewhat clearer. The June 8-9 clashes between Mauritanian rebels and loyalists subsided overnight but erupted again around 6 a.m. in the center of Nouakchott and near the international airport on the eastern outskirts of the capital. Loyalist reinforcements in at least 100 vehicles rolled into the capital late on the 8th, and these forces fired up the mutineers trying to break out of the national military police headquarters (where they had been holed up overnight).

While President Taya's whereabouts remained unknown and speculation was rife throughout the morning, there were reports (later confirmed) that army chief-of-staff Colonel Ndiayane had been killed in first day of fighting. Rumors had it that the coup forced the president to seek refuge at the French embassy in the capital. Hospitals had scores of wounded and the medical staff couldn't even guess how many had been killed. After the shooting stopped, crowds of Taya supporters took to the streets and chanted "victory, victory," and honked car horns for hours. 

Some officers who took part in the quelled coup were killed and many were captured, while the rest retreated to the South. Around  3PM, President Taya addressed the population in the first appearance since the coup attempt started, telling them that a group of officers have controlled an armor unit tried to stage the coup, pointing out that loyal troops had to destroy the tanks. 

The Mauritanian army has 35 T-55s on the books (roughly a battalion's worth) and at least two were reportedly involved in the coup attempt, the total number still working remains unknown. Oddly enough, those T-55s were given to Mauritania by Saddam Hussein, since Baghdad was one of President Taya's few friends after he took power in a 1984 coup. Taya backed Iraq during the first Gulf War, but must have sensed which way the wind was blowing and shifted his allegiances to the Western camp. - Adam Geibel 

Al-Jazeera Interview With Top Al-Qa'ida Leader Abu Hafs 'The Mauritanian', online at: 


Article Archive

Potential Hot Spots: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close