Fighting erupted Sunday in the West African nation of Mauritania (search) in an apparent coup attempt against the country's pro-West leader, broadcast reports said.

The reported coup attempt in Nouakchott, the capital of this Arab-dominated country, follows a crackdown on alleged Islamic extremists (search) by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya.

The Mideast's al-Jazeera (search) and al-Arabiya TV reported clashes and tank cannon fire around the presidential palace following what they described as a failed coup attempt.

Telephones lines were out to the Sahara Desert nation on Sunday morning, and it was not immediately possible to learn more.

Mauritania's government has cracked down on Islamic activists since the U.S.-led Iraq war, initially to try to prevent any Islamic shows of support for Iraq. Dozens of Islamic leaders were arrested last month for allegedly using mosques to recruit young men as fighters.

Mauritania's Arab-led government has tried to balance a strongly Islamic nation with a pro-Western foreign policy.

Mauritania is one of only three Arab nations to hold diplomatic relations with Israel.