France is planning to evacuate its citizens from Niger, where a military junta ousted the Nigerien president last week in a coup.
“An evacuation is being organized” and “will happen rapidly,” France’s foreign ministry said Tuesday.
The announcement comes after Niger’s top military brass announced last week on national television that they had overthrown the country’s president Mohamed Bazoum.
Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021, is currently under detention.
Last week, thousands of people demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger, with some of them reportedly shouting “Long live Putin” and “Down with France.”A change in regime in Niger is seen as a blow to the West — especially France
— as it has strong ties to the West African nation. Paris had reportedly deployed about 1,500 French soldiers in Niger after a bilateral military agreement aimed at fighting terrorism.
The announcement comes as the military junta intensifies its anti-French rhetoric, with putschists accusing France on Monday of planning strikes to try to free Bazoum.
On Monday evening, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna denied that France was preparing a military intervention in Niger and said that Russia could be taking advantage of the situation.
“I am not sure that everyone in Niger sleeps with a Russian flag under their pillow. But it is possible that Russia tries to take advantage of the situation. It does it in other countries of the region. It’s an hypothesis,” she told BFMTV channel.
Italy is also helping its citizens leave Niger. Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Tuesday the government was offering a “special flight” to Italian citizens in Niamey looking to return to Italy. The Italian embassy in Niamey will, however, remain open and operating to contribute to any mediation efforts, Tajani added.
On Monday, Tajani told Italian media that there were less than 100 Italians in Niger and that they were not in any danger.