Niger’s former leader claims he is a hostage, and asks the U.S. not to stop the coup

Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum says he is a hostage following the military coup that ousted his government, and called for the U.S. and others to help.

He said: “I appeal to the U.S. Government and the international community at large to help us restore constitutional order.” Fighting for our shared values – including democracy pluralism and respect of the rule law – is the only sustainable way to combat poverty and terrorism. Nigeriens will never forget the support you gave us at this crucial moment in history.”

The State Department announced on Thursday that it would assist private American citizens to evacuate Niger. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that they would offer them seats on a commercial plane chartered by the State Department. If all goes according to plan, the flight will depart Niamey on Friday afternoon.

The U.S. Government had already reduced its personnel. Approximately 1,110 U.S. soldiers were helping to build up Niger’s special forces in order to combat Boko Haram militants, Islamic State militants, and al Qaeda linked groups. France, which ruled Niger until 1960 as a colonial power, has around 1,500 soldiers on the ground.

The Biden administration has not used the term coup yet, even though France, Germany, and the European Union called it one. This would have meant that all U.S. military and economic assistance would be suspended.

France and other nations, including the 15 nation Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS, have already imposed sanctions.

Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum claims that mutinous soldiers are holding him hostage. Issouf Sanogo / AFP through Getty Images

The ECOWAS delegation arrived in Niger on Thursday to begin talks. They had given the Niger’s mutinous troops a deadline of Sunday for them to release Bazoum and restore him or else face possible force.

The military uprising was characterized by a similar anti-French sentiment as coups in neighboring ex French colonies.

On Thursday, a Niger representative said that the military junta in control of the country had cancelled a number of agreements for military cooperation with Paris. The country has also suspended the broadcasting of French-funded international media outlets.

The junta announced on state TV that it would also be firing key ambassadors of the previous administration, including those to the U.S.

Abdourahamane Tiani – former head of Niger’s presidential guard – has stated that he won’t back down despite pressure from Africa and the West. He cited security as his main reason, despite data showing a decrease in militant attacks.

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