Renegade army officers stage coup in Mauritania

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Renegade army officers staged a coup Wednesday and detained Mauritania's president and prime minister, after they fired the desert country's top four military officials, the presidential spokesman said.

President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is being held by renegade soldiers at the presidential palace in Nouakchott, spokesman Abdoulaye Mamadouba said.

Soldiers also detained Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waqef, the spokesman said.

State radio and television have gone off air, and witnesses said soldiers are deployed throughout the capital. No violence was immediately reported.

Abdallahi's civilian government took control from a military junta which seized power in a 2005 coup and and stepped down after 2007 elections.

No official reason was given for firing the military commanders, which were announced early Wednesday. Among those fired was army chief staff Gen. Mohamed Ould Sheikh Mohamed.

A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, told the Arab satellite television staiton Al-Jazeera by telephone that many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt. He described the government as "an authoritarian regime" and asserted that the president had "marginalized the majority in parliament."