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Niger Army Chief Backs Attempted Coup in West African Country

Niger Army Chief Backs Attempted Coup in West African Country

Niger’s army chief has backed a coup in the West African country, a day after President Mohamed Bazoum was detained by soldiers. 

The army announced its support for the coup plotters in order to “avoid bloodshed,” it said in a letter released on social media, according to AFP. Bloomberg was not immediately able to verify the statement, which was signed by Army Chief of Staff General Abdou Sidikou Issa.

Late Wednesday, a group of soldiers said they had “put an end to the regime” due to “the continuous degradation of the security situation, the bad economic and social governance”. If the coup is successful it will complete a strip of military-led countries that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean and includes Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Sudan.

Calling themselves the National Council for the Protection of the Homeland — or CNSP according to its French acronym — the group announced the suspension of all institutions and the dissolution of parliament via a statement aired on the state broadcaster.

Claiming to represent all the units of the security and defense forces, the group also imposed a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Soldiers appearing on television when the statement was broadcast included members of each group of Niger’s security services, as well as at least two generals including the deputy army chief of staff, and an assistant to the presidential guard. It wasn’t immediately clear who was leading the CNSP.

Earlier on Thursday, Bazoum was still being detained by soldiers claiming to have seized power, said Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou.

“We urge these factious officers to return to the ranks so that we can solve this through dialog,” Massoudou told France24 on Thursday.

String of Coups

The claimed military takeover follows five successful coups in the past three years in West Africa — a region wracked by the growing influence of violent extremists and food insecurity exacerbated by climate change — including two in neighboring Mali and two in Burkina Faso. Niger previously had a coup in 2010, when President Mamadou Tandja was removed.

Niger, one of the world’s top producers of uranium, is a linchpin in the fight against jihadists and other armed groups in West Africa’s Sahel region, at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert. France has deployed troops, its largest military operation abroad, while the US has a $110 million drone base in the central city of Agadez.

Read More: What’s Driving Coups in Niger and Across West Africa?: QuickTake

Niger Military Says It Has Seized Power From President Bazoum | Coup is the latest in a series of military takeovers in the region

Bazoum, who came to power two years ago in the first democratic transfer of power in Niger since independence from France in 1960, earlier on Thursday said Niger’s “hard-won gains will be safeguarded. “All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it,” he said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The soldiers’ actions drew criticism from Niger’s neighbors and international partners including France, the US and the European Union.

The US State Department urged “elements of the presidential guard to release President Bazoum from detention and refrain from violence,” according to a statement on its website.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke with Bazoum, signaling US support for him as the democratically elected president.

“We call for his immediate release,” Blinken said during a visit to New Zealand. “We condemn any effort to seize power by force.”

Niger exports most of its uranium production to France, according to the World Nuclear Association. It produced 2,020 tons of the metal last year. An oil pipeline to neighboring Benin is set to come online later this year.

Niger Is One of the World's Biggest Uranium Producers | Most of Niger's production is exported to France

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