Mauritania releases opposition supporters arrested after vote clashes

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Former general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has been confirmed as the winner of Mauritania's presidental election

Former general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has been confirmed as the winner of Mauritania's presidental election (AFP Photo/SIA KAMBOU)

Nouakchott (AFP) - Opposition supporters arrested in Mauritania during clashes after disputed presidential elections have been released following official confirmation of the ruling party's victory, security and justice sources told AFP.

"Several activists and opposition leaders arrested during these events were released" on Tuesday, a security source told AFP, without specifying the number.

Those released included supporters of candidate Baba Hamidou Kane, who came fourth, the source said Wednesday.

Foreigners who took part in the clashes have also been released and others have been deported and charged with "undermining the security of the state," a judicial source told AFP, without indicating their number.

Ex-general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won the June 22 poll with an absolute majority of 52 percent, the Constitutional Council, the final authority on Mauritania's founding law, announced on Monday.

Four opposition candidates, who have claimed the vote was fraudulent and unfair, said in a joint statement on Tuesday that they were ready to help end the "current political crisis" through dialogue.

The opposition had complained that hundreds of people were arrested in a crackdown on post-poll protests.

The authorities have not specified a total of arrests but said about 100 nationals of neighbouring countries, including Senegalese and Malians, had been detained.

Mobile access to the internet, which had been partially cut off in the conservative West African country since June 23, was restored on Wednesday. Fixed-line access had been cut off from June 25 to 28.

However, Ahmed Ould Wediaa, a journalist with the private TV channel Almourabitoune, was arrested late Tuesday, police said Wednesday. The reasons for his arrest were not given.

Ghazouani will on August 2 officially take over the presidency from close ally Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two five-year terms.

The incoming president has left for France on a private visit, according to local media.

His election has been billed as the first democratic transition of power in the vast Sahel country since independence from France in 1960.

Mauritania, with a population of less than five million, has a history of military coups, the most recent in 2008.