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A group of mutinous soldiers from Niger’s Presidential Guard claimed in a televised address late Wednesday to have overthrown the country’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking in front of a group of military officers calling themselves the Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, spokesperson Col. Major Amadou Abdramane said the coup was a result of “the continuing degradation of the security situation, the bad economic and social governance.”
The plotters earlier sealed off the presidential palace in the capital Niamey and taken Bazoum and his family prisoner, and all institutions were suspended, the country’s land and air borders were closed and a nationwide curfew was in place, he added.
However, gunfire was reported in Niamey Thursday morning as demonstrators approached the palace, the AP reported.
The president’s office had posted on Twitter Wednesday that the president and his family were well, and that the presidential guards had tried “in vain” to gain the support of other members of the security forces for their “anti-Republican demonstration,” Al Jazeera wrote.
But at the time of Abradmane’s announcement neither Bazoum’s whereabouts nor whether he had resigned were known.
The situation has triggered concerns about yet another coup in West Africa, a region that has experienced a series of military takeovers over the past three years, including in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu condemned Wednesday’s coup attempt and warned that the powerful regional bloc, ECOWAS, would not accept “any action that impedes the smooth functioning of legitimate authority in Niger or any part of West Africa.”
Benin President Patrice Talon was expected to arrive in Niamey Thursday in a bid to mediate between the two sides.
Bazoum was elected in a 2021 vote that marked the first democratic transition of power in Niger, a country that has experienced four military coups since it gained independence from France in 1960.
In March 2021, a military unit attempted to seize the presidential palace just days before Bazoum was to be sworn in.
Niger is a crucial ally for Western powers supporting local troops fighting extremists in a conflict that began in Mali in 2012 and has since spread to neighboring countries.
France moved its troops from Mali to Niger last year, amid souring relations with Mali’s military junta – a recurring pattern in former French colonies in the region.