Niger coup ousts president

Friday, February 19, 2010

The president of Niger, Tandja Mamadou, has been captured and imprisoned by a group of Nigerien soldiers under the name of "Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy" after an attack on the presidential palace late Thursday.

File photo of Tandja Mamadou from 2007.

The Nigerien embassy in London has issued a statement saying that both the president and ministers in his company were "safe and well," although officials said that the company was most likely imprisoned in military barracks outside of Niamy.

According to an announcement by the representative of the group responsible for the coup, a Nigerien Army colonel, the country's constitution has been suspended and all government institutions have been dissolved. It is not clear who the leader of the coup is, although several military sources said that Major Adamou Harouna of the Nigerien Army was responsible.

The coup apparently took place during a cabinet meeting in the capitol building, and was preceded by a several-hour long gun battle in the capital, Niamy. The battle began at about 13:00 local time (12:00 UTC), ending about four hours later, with both foot soldiers and tanks involved, although no significant deployment of the military was reported. The morning after the battle, the streets were relatively quiet, and the only significant military presence is heavy artillery around the presidential palace.

The battle led to at least ten deaths, four of which were soldiers. The identities of those killed have not been released. Additionally, a curfew has been imposed, and the military has closed Niger's borders. Despite the crisis, the government has yet to release an official statement as to its status.

The actions of the military prompted condemnations of the coup from both the African Union and the nation of France, both of which called for negotiations to resolve the situation. The West African group of countries Ecowas has already dispatched a delegation to talk to the group responsible for the coup.

The coup came after an extended political crisis in which President Tandja has dissolved both the National Assembly and Niger's High Court, as well as extending his presidential term by three years, and removing all further limits on his term. These actions have led to increasing pressure against him and the government, culminating with a thousands-strong demonstration against the government last week.


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