- Mauritania's ousted prime minister and three other high-ranking government officials have been released yesterday, five days after they were taken hostage in a military coup. However, president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is still under house arrest.
The state council said it had freed prime minister Yahia Ould Ahmed El-Ouakef and three other allies of Mr Abdallahi, though it did not mention Mr Abdallahi, who has been in custody since he was overthrown last Wednesday.
Addressing thousands of supporters hours after being freed, Mr El-Waqef said the president was in good health and urged the people to continue fighting to restore democratically-elected government.
"The president thanks you for your untiring fight, your strong fight to restore constitutional order,'' Mr El- Waghef said.
Mr El-Waqef's release comes after a meeting on Sunday when diplomats from United States, France, Germany and Spain met General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the coup leader, to demand the release of detained politicians.
African Union said Mauritania's membership of the pan-African bloc will be suspended until democracy is restored, while France halted development aid and said European Union may consider sanctions. The coup also prompted the US to cut off more than $20 million in aid.
Mr Aziz launched the coup last week an hour after President Abdallahi fired the country's top four generals, including him, following an increasingly bitter standoff between the president and the army.
Mr Abdallahi, who last year won Mauritania's first free elections in over 20 years, had opposed the military's subsequent plan to hold elections on grounds that the president had failed to govern the country.
Renegade troops also are reported to have taken control of all state media in Nouakchott, while the relatively independent state radio and television, have been shut down by coup leaders, with so far, only few unbiased reports escaping the country.
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