RealNews

Old Iraqi Tanks Led Impoverished Mauritania's Coup

The army unit spearheading a failed coup in Mauritania this month was equipped long ago by Saddam Hussein and its leader was known to be close to Iraq’s Arab nationalist Baath party, diplomats said. The northwest African country is trying to fathom the most violent attempt to seize power since independence in 1960, and crushing poverty appears as much a cause as growing political and religious discontent. President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya’s government has not said why it thinks the plotters launched their attempted coup, and suspected coup leader Saleh Ould Hanenna is on the run. The coup attempt followed the arrest of dozens of Islamists and Baath party activists amid restive signs after the U.S.-led war on Saddam. But diplomats also cite questions over democracy, deeply unpopular ties with Israel and a famine that has touched a third of the desert country’s nearly three million people. “The coup leaders thought there were pockets of discontent in a number of areas and everybody would come out of the woodwork against Taya and support them,” a Western diplomat said. “They severely miscalculated on that.” But the rebels came close to succeeding. At one point they reached the presidential palace and took radio and television stations — standard targets for an African coup — but reinforcements from the interior put them to flight on Monday before they had issued a rallying cry. Full Story

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