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A day after soldiers of the Presidential Guard detained the president and took over the country, supporters of a coup in Niger set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party while the deposed president vowed to restore democracy, Reuters reported Thursday.

In the capital of Niamey, black smoke billowed from the headquarters after hundreds of supporters of the coup who had gathered in front of the National Assembly playing pro-army music, waving Russian flags and chanting anti-French slogans, targeted the building.

The army, meanwhile, on Thursday backed the coup, with the army’s chief of staff saying its priority was to avoid “a deadly confrontation … that could create a bloodbath and affect the security of the population.”

On Wednesday, soldiers from the Presidential Guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum and announced on television that they had stripped him of power after growing concerned over the deteriorating security situation and poor governance. They suspended all political parties indefinitely.

Now, it is unclear who will take over from Bazoum.

The coup has left the West deeply concerned. The country had become a crucial ally in the West’s fight against an extremist insurgency especially after coups in the Sahel region have led to the withdrawal of foreign troops – for example, France moved its soldiers to Niger from Mali after a military coup last year.

A jihadist insurgency that took root in Mali in 2012 has widened, killing thousands and displacing more than six million people across the Sahel.

Frustrations over state failures to prevent attacks on towns and villages partly spurred two coups in Mali and two in Burkina Faso since 2020. At the same time, both countries have grown closer to Russia since military juntas have taken over the government.

The coup in Niger is the seventh in West and Central Africa since 2020.

Meanwhile, Bazoum, elected in 2021 in the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960, vowed to protect the country’s “hard-won” democratic gains, the Associated Press reported, writing on Twitter that, “All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it.”

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