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Map of Mauritania

Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for over two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President Taya and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. Arabic is the official language; Pulaar, Soninke, French, Hassaniya, and Wolof are also spoken.
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