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3 Aug, 2023 02:56

US evacuates embassy staff from Niger

Washington joins a growing list of countries to evacuate citizens following the ouster of the country's elected leader
US evacuates embassy staff from Niger

The US State Department has ordered a partial pullout for diplomatic workers stationed in Niger, amid ongoing unrest following a recent coup in the African nation.

Officials announced the decision on Wednesday, outlining that non-emergency personnel and family members were ordered to leave the US Embassy in Niamey. They noted that the move was prompted by “ongoing developments in Niger,” and taken “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The United States rejects all efforts to overturn Niger’s constitutional order, and stands with the people of Niger,” the State Department said in a press release, referring to the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum by opposition forces last week.

A number of other Western states have announced their own evacuations, with France stating it would help to withdraw its citizens and those hailing from other EU states on Tuesday. Italy, Spain, and Germany have each issued notices for citizens to leave, warning of a deteriorating security situation in the wake of the coup.

Though Washington has so far declined to describe the abrupt transfer of power as a “coup,” US officials continue to recognize Bazoum as Niger’s legitimate leader. Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed on Wednesday he had spoken with the deposed president, and called for the “restoration of the democratically-elected government.”

Bazoum was detained by his own presidential guardsmen on July 26, after which senior military officer Abdourahamane Tchiani declared himself the head of a new junta, closing Niger’s borders, suspending various government institutions, and imposing a curfew.

The West African regional bloc, known as ECOWAS, has condemned the coup and issued an ultimatum for the junta to reinstate Bazoum within seven days. If its demands are not met, the body has threatened to “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” including the use of force.

Two of Niger’s neighbors, Mali and Burkina Faso, have warned against any military intervention by ECOWAS, stating it would “amount to a declaration of war” on their respective countries. They have vowed to withdraw from the bloc and “adopt self-defense measures in support of the armed forces and the people of Niger” in the event of military involvement by the regional collective.