France, Italy to evacuate citizens from Niger

Evacuation of foreigners from Niger after military takeover
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France will begin evacuating its citizens from Niger, which was taken over by the military in a coup, on Tuesday, the French Foreign Ministry said.

It said it would also evacuate other Europeans who wanted to leave the country, a former French colony.

About 500 to 600 French citizens are in Niger.

Italy also said it would fly its citizens out of Niger on a special flight, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Twitter.

He said that its embassy in the Nigerien capital Niamey would remain open.

Tajani did not say when the Italian evacuation would begin.

On Wednesday last week, officers from General Omar Tchiani’s elite unit detained democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum and declared him deposed.

Tchiani decleared himself the new ruler on Friday.

Over the weekend there were pro-coup protests in Niamey.

According to reports, demonstrators gathered in front of the French embassy.

Some reportedly tore down the embassy plaque, trampled on it and replaced it with Nigerien and Russian flags.

Paris had condemned the violence.

In Berlin, a German government crisis team is to discuss the situation in Niger again at 1 p.m. (1100 GMT).

It would make an up-to-date assessment of the security situation for the nearly 100 German civilians in the country.

The French offer to take other citizens with them is expected to be discussed.

France can land several planes with the approval of the Nigerien authorities, although flight operations at Niamey airport are banned until Friday.

Germany on Tuesday had still not activated its own plans for an evacuation.

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The coup has been internationally condemned.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued an ultimatum to the coup leaders on Sunday.

If Bazoum is not released and reinstated within a week, ECOWAS would take measures that could include the use of force, it said.

On Monday, neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali warned ECOWAS against intervening.

The countries warned that any military intervention in Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against them, a joint statement by the two transitional governments said.

They also said if ECOWAS intervened militarily in Niger, they would withdraw from ECOWAS.

The two nations said they would institute self-defence measures to support the Nigerien armed forces and people if ECOWAS intervened with force.

Shortly after Tchiani’s coup, he declared himself the de facto president and suspended the West African country’s constitution and dissolved all constitutional institutions.

The former colonial power France has about 2,500 soldiers stationed in Niger as well as in neighbouring Chad.

Niger was recently one of its last local partners in the counterterrorism fight in the wider Sahel region.

The country is also of interest to France because of its uranium. (dpa/NAN)(

Edited by Cecilia Odey/Chioma Ugboma


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