Nouakchott, June 9 (Reuters): Mauritania’s President, in his first broadcast since fighting erupted early yesterday, said today his forces had succeeded in putting down an attempted coup.
“The patriotic forces beat this plot that aimed to end the process of development and emancipation,” President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya said in a radio and television broadcast.
“It took time because it was necessary to destroy tank after tank. As I speak, the operation is complete.”
Earlier loyalist troops seized back the heart of Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott from rebels trying to oust its Arab President, who has locked up Islamist opponents and courted Israel.
The city trembled to the sound of shellfire as Taya’s soldiers launched an assault before sunrise with the help of reinforcements rushed from garrisons in the desert interior of the northwest African country.
“The putsch is over, the army is back in control,” assured one soldier, Mohammed Lemine, standing guard at a checkpoint.
Sporadic gunfire shifted out to the suburbs as the putschists were driven out.
Sensitive areas like the palace remained cordoned off.