"Coup attempt foiled in Niger before inauguration of new president
A military "coup attempt" was foiled overnight in Niger, the government said Wednesday, two days before the swearing-in of President-elect Mohamed Bazoum, who takes the helm of a country hit by jihadist attacks and with a history marked by coups.
Residents of the presidential district in Niamey told AFP that they were woken up by gunfire. "The shooting was intense, there were heavy weapons and small arms," said one of them.
Sources close to the government initially announced "arrests" following an "attempted coup", which was confirmed a few hours later by the government.
"During the night of March 30 to 31, 2021, an attempted coup was foiled," the government said in a statement, condemning "this cowardly and retrograde act that threatens democracy and the rule of law to which our country is firmly committed.
An investigation has been opened but "several people linked to this coup attempt" have already been "arrested and others are actively sought", he said, without further details.
The government said that "the situation is completely under control" and invited "the population to go about their daily business normally".
The presidential district has been cordoned off by the police, but in the rest of the city, the situation was normal on Wednesday afternoon, an AFP journalist noted.
The U.S. Embassy in Niamey decided to suspend its "consular services until further notice" and "encouraged" its staff to stay at home, while the French Embassy invited "the French to stay at home".
This "coup attempt" came before the inauguration scheduled for Friday in Niamey of the newly elected president Mohamed Bazoum, who is very close to the outgoing head of state Mahamadou Issoufou.
His rival, former president Mahamane Ousmane, is contesting the election results and has claimed victory, calling for "peaceful demonstrations" throughout the country. The one planned for Wednesday in Niamey has been banned.
Many heads of state are expected to attend the inauguration of Mohamed Bazoum, according to the Nigerien authorities.