7 Aug 2008

Coup in Mauritania

6:09 am on 7 August 2008

Troops in the northwestern African country of Mauritania have overthrown the nation's first freely-elected leader and say they have formed a state council to rule the country.

President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was held after he tried to dismiss the military's top commanders on Wednesday.

A statement read on public radio General Ould Abdel Aziz, the head of the presidential guard, was leading the coup.

Troops are out on the streets of the capital, Nouakchott, where tear gas was fired at about 50 protesters.

Mr Abdallahi came to power in June 2007, two years after a military coup.

The elections were the first in 25 years.

The coup has been condemned by the European Union and African Union. Brussels says it jeopardises a €156 million five-year aid package which is currently being finalised.