Mauritanians have begun voting for a new president. The polls are expected to be won by incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, with the opposition already accusing him of trying to rig the vote.
The National Forum for Democracy and Unity, a grouping of Mauritania's main opposition parties, has boycotted the election, accusing the "dictatorial" Abdel Aziz of trying to rig the vote.
More than 1.3 million people have registered to vote at almost 3,000 polling stations in the Arabic-speaking republic of more than 3.5 million that links North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Voting began at 0700 UTC and will close at 1900. Members of the armed forces voted Friday to ensure their availability to maintain law and order during the election.
The 57-year-old incumbent Abdel Aziz, who came to power in a 2008 coup, won the widely contested 2009 presidential election - a vote the opposition says was marred by fraud. He was later targeted in a 2012 shooting attack. This time around, the former army general has four challengers: Ibrahima Moctar Sarr, Boidiel Ould Houmeid, Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid and Lalla Mariem Mint Moulaye Idriss.
Mauritania faces numerous challenges, including the challenge of thwarting a a strong modern-day slaving industry.
mkg/rc (AFP, dpa)