A military junta toppled Mauritania's autocratic president while he was abroad, replacing him with the longtime chief of this oil-rich desert nation's police force.
President Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya's bloodless overthrow Wednesday prompted celebrations in the Islamic nation that had looked increasingly to the West amid alleged threats from al-Qaida linked militants.
The junta promised to yield to democratic rule within two years, but African leaders, the United States and the European Union condemned the coup. African leaders declared the days of authoritarianism and military rule must end across the continent.
Taya arrived Wednesday in nearby Niger from Saudi Arabia, where he attended King Fahd's funeral.
Vall, 55, has served as national police chief since 1987. Known for his calm and reserve, he was considered a close confidant of Taya for more than two decades.
The junta statement identified 16 other army officers as members. Except for one captain, all are colonels, the highest rank in the country's armed forces, reports Guardian.
According to BBC news, AU Commission President Alpha Oumar Konare said the union "strongly condemns any seizure of power or any attempt to take power by force".
The US said it joined with the AU in condemning the coup and called "for a peaceful return for order under the constitution and the established government of President Taya".
Britain, in its capacity as current president of the European Union, called for "full respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law" in Mauritania.
President Taya took power in a bloodless coup in December 1984 and has been re-elected three times since.
Correspondents say he later made enemies among Islamists in the country, which is an Islamic republic.
Critics accuse the government of using the US-led war on terror to crack down on Islamic opponents.
Mr Taya had also prompted widespread opposition by establishing links with Israel, making Mauritania one of only three Arab states to have done so.
Earlier this year, nearly 200 people, including former President Mohamed Khoum Ould Hialeah, were put on trial for a series of alleged coup plots.