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Mauritania: Opposition Sit-in Attacked by Security Forces

A sit-in in Nouakchott by opposition groups was violently dispersed by security forces in the early hours of May 3. It was the latest of a series of protests that have taken place in Mauritania.

Protestors, who were calling for the downfall of the military government, had erected tents and brought supplies and a water truck, intending to stay. This was the first mass sit-in organised by all opposition parties and activist and community groups.

Mauritanians have been protesting for political and economic reforms, and the end to military rule, for more than a year. The country has been described as being at boiling point.

Opposition sit-in in Nouakchott on May 2. Image by Twitter user @ahmedj85.

Online activist Anita Hunt described what happened on the morning of May 3:

After cutting off electricity and barricading the area around the sit-in with road blocks and a convoy of about 30 vehicles, a barrage of tear gas, sound grenades and water cannon rained down on the camp. Police then attacked and beat protesters as they tried to escape. Scores of people were injured and dozens arrested in clashes that continued for over two hours. The injured included the leader of one of the opposition parties; the director of another opposition leader, Ould Daddah’s office; independent radio journalists; a pregnant woman who was overcome by tear gas and developed severe breathing diffculties; and a youth with internal bleeding. The police confiscated bedding, electronics, and provisions from the camp site, and were later seen dividing up the food and drink between themselves. Whatever police couldn’t remove easily – such as tables, chairs and toilet facilities – they destroyed. There are reports that president Aziz and a security detail of the presidential guard were spotted in the vicinity while the attacks were in progress, indicating that he was personally supervising the raid. The Council of Ministers met at the presidential palace later that morning, while police launched a fresh attack on the university, arresting several students. After the Council meeting, there was no mention in the official statement regarding the massive protest or the attack.

Mauritanian blogger Ahmed Jedou wrote:

هذا الاعتصام شاركت فيه جميع أطياف المعارضة الموريتانية
من أحزاب وقوى سياسية وحركات شبابية مثل حركة 25 فبراير التي دخلت في سمر ليلي صاخب .
حيث قرضوا الشعر ورددوا شعارهم الاشهر “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر “الذي رفعوه من أكثر من عام مع بداية الربيع العربي.
The whole spectrum of the Mauritanian opposition took part in this sit-in: all parties, political forces, youth movements such as the 25 February movement [ar] that organised a night vigil during which they recited poems and repeated their slogan of months “Down, down with military rule”, which they have been saying for more than a year since the beginning of the Arab Spring.

US-based Mauritanian activist Nasser Weddady commented:

@weddady:#موريتانيا‬‏ على الرغم من قلة عدد سكانها قطعت أشواطاً بعيدة في الحراك الشعبي إذ أنها شهدت ميلاد حركات إحتجاجية في سنة.إنجاز قياسي بكل المعايير
@weddady:#Mauritania ‬despite its small population has made ​​great strides in popular mobilisation, as it has witnessed the birth of protest movements in a year. Record achievement by any standard

He added:

@weddady: Now, we will see how the opposition will react to the mass beating. As usual, don't expect much on any of this in world media.

This video [ar], uploaded by ahmedj85, shows the sit-in on May 2:

The following video [ar], uploaded by alaakhbarinfo, shows the sit-in being attacked in the early morning of May 3:

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