Mauritania faces military coup attempt

Mauritania's armed forces have set up a military council to rule the country and put an end to the "totalitarian regime" of President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, a statement on the state news agency said on Wednesday.

The statement, signed by a so-called Military Council for Justice and Democracy, said the council would rule the Islamic Republic for two years. Taya was out of the country, informs Reuters.

According to BBC, the military council said it had ended the "totalitarian regime" of President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya.

Troops have seized control of state media and main routes in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott.

Presidential guards earlier blocked off access to the presidential palace and gunfire was heard.

The new Military Council for Justice and Democracy said it would rule the West African state for two years.

A plane carrying President Taya has landed in Niger's capital, Niamey, on his return from attending the funeral of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, officials say.

Heavily armed soldiers deployed in force around the presidential palace, ministries and other strategic buildings and on the streets of the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, blocking key roads and several entrances to the city.

Mohamed Ali, a father of eight who lives nearby, was among dozens of people fleeing the city center.

``I'm afraid for my family,'' he said. ``I'll come back when things are back to normal.''

The presidential guard troops cut state media broadcasts and the nation has no private stations. The airport also was closed to civilian flights, according to the military.

Cabinet ministers and army officials either could not be reached or refused to comment.

Taya has survived several coup attempts during his 20-year reign, but only the 2003 effort to overthrow him made it past the planning stage, marked by several days of street fighting in the capital, reports Guardian.

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