France planning strikes to free ousted president, Niger junta says
Niger’s deposed government has authorized France to conduct strikes on the presidential palace in order to release President Mohamed Bazoum, the military junta that seized power last week claimed on Monday.
The junta had earlier warned against foreign attempts to free Bazoum, who has been held hostage at the palace since Wednesday, when the putsch took place.
In a statement on Monday, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, one of the coup leaders, claimed that France, an ally of the country in fighting jihadist insurgencies, has been seeking a means to “intervene militarily” in the situation.
“France, with the complicity of certain Nigeriens, held a meeting at the General Staff of the National Guard of Niger to obtain necessary political and military authorizations,” Abdramane stated.
According to him, Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou and Maj. Midou Guirey, commander of the national guard, both cleared Paris to “carry out strikes.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned the coup and demanded the release and reinstatement of the democratically elected Bazoum, vowing that Paris will back regional powers in imposing sanctions on the coup leaders.r
The coup in Niger is the latest in a series of military takeovers in former French colonies, with similar events happening in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years amid a surge in anti-French sentiment.
Thousands of supporters of Niger’s junta demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Niamey on Sunday to protest the former colonial power’s alleged meddling in the country’s affairs. The protesters burned French flags and ripped off a plaque with the inscription “Embassy of France in Niger,” according to French newspaper Le Monde.
Macron said on Sunday that attacks on France and its interests in the West African country would not be tolerated and would be met with an immediate response. Paris announced on Saturday that it had suspended, with “immediate effect, all its development aid and budget support actions in Niger.”
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-member regional bloc, has imposed economic and financial sanctions and warned that if Niger’s coup leaders do not reinstate Bazoum within seven days, it will authorize the use of force. France said it “welcomes the decisions taken by the ECOWAS heads of state” for an “immediate return to the constitutional order in Niger under President Mohamed Bazoum.”