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U.S. sends military team to Mauritania after coup attempt

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The United States has sent a military team to Mauritania to help protect American interests in that Arab League state.

U.S. officials said the Defense Department has sent two military teams into Mauritania in wake of an unsuccessful coup over the weekend. They said the teams would be responsible to protect the U.S. embassy as well as other interests in the North African country.

One team that arrived in Nouakchott was described as a response and evacuation force, officials said. This force would be on standby and prepared to quickly evacuate Americans should they be deemed endangered.

A second team that arrived in the Mauritanian capital was meant to assess the damage from the coup to U.S. interests. Thousands of troops rebelled against the regime of President Maaouya Taya and for more than a day air and tank battles raged in and Nouakchott, Middle East Newsline reported.

State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said on Tuesday that the U.S. military team is composed of 34 soldiers from U.S. European Command.

Reeker said the team would augment U.S. embassy security in Nouakchott and "aid in the evacuation of American citizens, should that become necessary."

Reeker said all but one of the Americans in Mauritanian are safe and accounted for. The exception was outside Nouakchott and the State Department has not received reports that the American has been harmed.

"Right now, we are pleased that the attempted coup has failed, and that the President Taya has regained control, he and his forces loyal to the government have regained control of Nouakchott, the capital," Reeker said.

"There have been no reports of rebel activity or violence outside the capital."

On Tuesday, the U.S. embassy reopened its offices in Nouakchott. Officials said they believe the coup has failed although they could not rule out a resurgence of anti-regime violence.

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