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Africa 2006,

Originally part of an extensive trade network in the northern Indian Ocean, these islands became known as Comoros-a corruption of the name Jazair al-Komr (Islands of the Moon) given by Arab mariners. A thousand years ago Ndzuani (Anjouan) was settled by Arabs and Shirazi (Persian) Muslims, replete with slaves. Since 1912 the Comoros had been administered as a colony by the French from Madagascar. In 1946 it was separated and in 1961 granted limited self-government. In 1974, when Comoros voted for independence, Mayotte with its Christian majority voted against joining the other largely Islamic islands and opted for continued French rule. The first post independence president, Ahmed Abdallah, was ousted after less than a month in office and replaced by a young populist, Ali Solihi. Since then coups, attempted coups and mercenary incursions have been part and parcel of the nation's political life. Elected in 1996, President Mohammed Taki died in November 1998 under suspicious circumstances and was succeeded by the president of the High Court, Tadjidine Ben Said Massoude. He was in turn replaced in 1999 in the latest of 20 coups since independence in 1975, engineered by Col. Azali Assoumani who headed a military government until 2002. Under severe outside pressure Assoumani and other combatants signed a new constitution in March 2002, providing for elections. In June 2002 Assoumani became federal president by virtue of his election to the post.