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:
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.