Presidential guardsmen seized Mauritanian President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi in a coup today after he sacked several top army officers, the president's daughter said.
Soldiers gathered at the presidential palace after Abdallahi replaced senior army officers during a political crisis in the northwest African country that is one of the continent's newest oil producers. Abdallahi won elections last year and took over from a military junta that had ruled since it toppled President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya in a bloodless coup in 2005.
"The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home around 9.20 (0920 GMT) and took away my father," Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, the president's daughter, told Reuters.
A presidency official who declined to be named said the president, prime minister and interior minister had been arrested and taken to an unknown destination.
In a decree published earlier today by the national news agency, Abdallahi sacked army chief of staff General Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Ahmed Ghazouani and presidential guard chief Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz.
A security source in the capital Nouakchott told Reuters Abdelaziz was leading the coup. Gulf-based Arabic television news channel al-Arabiya reported that both he and Ghazouani were involved.
The head of the Gendarmerie paramilitary police force was also replaced in the decree. Shortly afterwards state radio and television stations went off the air.
Largely desert Mauritania, a former French colony of more than 3 million people, straddles black and Arab Africa.
Abdallahi replaced one government in May following criticism over the government's response to soaring food prices and to attacks over the last year carried out by al-Qa'ida's north African arm.
But the new government resigned last month in the face of a proposed no-confidence vote.
A new one was formed but without the opposition Union of Forces for Progress (UFP) and Islamist Tawassoul parties which had formed part of the previous government.
This week most of the members of parliament belonging to Abdallahi's PNDD-ADIL party walked out from the party en masse, in a move some political sources said were supported by senior military officials.