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Carnage tears through city as soldiers capture president and cars set on fire

3 min read

A west African country has been taken siege by a group of elite troops who have now called a coup.

Soldiers took to national TV to announce they had detained Niger's president, Mohamed Bazoum, and declare they now hold power in the nation.

Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, leading the mostly unknown military group, said “all institutions” in the country would be suspended, borders would be closed and a curfew would be imposed.

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"This follows the continued deterioration of the security situation, poor economic and social governance," he said.

Hordes of people gathered outside the presidential palace to protest the takeover but the crowd was quickly dispersed.

Meanwhile on Thursday several hundred people – some holding Russian flags – came out to show their support for the coup leaders.

Some young people from the group travelled to the headquarters of Bazoum’s PNDS party and attacked it, setting fire to cars outside.

The dramatic announcement came following a day of tension on Wednesday (July 26) amid what the government called "a fit of temper" by disgruntled segments of the Presidential Guard.

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Bazoum was democratically elected and came to power 2021

The leader spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and then took to X – the social network previously known as Twitter – to declare the "hard-won gains" of democracy would be safeguarded.

Niger Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou confirmed Bazoum was "in good health", adding he still held the country’s "legal and legitimate power" and calling on “all the fractious soldiers to return to their ranks”.

But the head of Niger’s armed forces said on Thursday he would endorse the coup.

"The military command of the Nigerien armed forces… has decided to subscribe to the declaration by the defence and security forces… in order to avoid a deadly confrontation between the various forces," said a statement signed by armed forces chief General Abdou Sidikou Issa.

The news comes as a worry for governments in the west, especially France, which would lose one of its last allies in the turbulent Sahel region which has suffered a string of attacks from the likes of Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

“A successful coup in Niger would be a terrible blow to the region," Michael Shurkin, a senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, said.

"In objective terms, Bazoum – who was democratically elected – was doing a lot of things right to save his country, and he was an ideal security partner for the West for that reason."

Shurkin also issued a warning the coup could lead Niger closer to Russia as Vladimir Putin hosts a Russia-Africa summit.

"Niger can ill afford to alienate its Western partners, and god forbid they invite in Russia, which we can count on to make all of Niger’s problems worse," he said on LinkedIn.

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