Niger Military Rulers Say Ousted President ‘Tried To Escape’

Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum meets with the French Foreign and Armies ministers during their official visit to Niamey on July 15, 2022. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

On Thursday, Niger’s military authorities said they blocked an attempt by Mohamed Bazoum, the former president they deposed in a July coup, to flee their country.

“At around three in the morning, the ousted president Mohamed Bazoum and his family, his two cooks, and two security elements tried to escape from his place of detention,” the regime’s spokesman, Amadou Abdramane, said on state television.

The escape bid failed, and “the main actors and some of the accomplices” were arrested, he added in the broadcast late Thursday.

An investigation has also been launched.

According to Abdramane, the escape plan entailed Bazoum first traveling to a hideaway on the outskirts of the capital, Niamey.

He went on to say that they had intended to fly off on helicopters “belonging to a foreign power” towards Nigeria, criticizing Bazoum’s “irresponsible attitude.”

Bazoum has refused to quit since he was deposed by the military on July 26. He had been detained at his apartment in the center of the presidential palace, along with his wife Haziza and son Salem, until now.

Abdramane did not say where they were being held now.

In September, Bazoum’s lawyers said he filed a legal case with a court of the Economic Community of West African States against those who deposed him.

They also said they were taking his case to the UN Human Rights Council.

The army commanders that ousted Bazoum claimed the deteriorating security situation in the country as reason for their actions.

Niger is fighting two jihadist insurgencies: a spillover from a long-running conflict in neighboring Nigeria in the southeast, and an offensive in the west led by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.

Niger had three days of national mourning at the beginning of the month after 29 soldiers were murdered in a suspected Islamist attack, the bloodiest since the military took power in July.

On Thursday, the first batch of French soldiers ordered out of Niger by the country’s post-coup military rulers arrived by road in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital.

The convoy “has arrived without any particular problems” in N’Djamena after 10 days on the road and in coordination with Nigerien forces, army spokesman Pierre Gaudilliere told AFP.

The troops will fly from Chad to France, and the withdrawal is anticipated to be completed by the end of December.

Around 1,400 soldiers were stationed in Niamey and western Niger to combat fighters affiliated to the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda, bringing fighter jets, drones, helicopters, and armored vehicles, as well as support equipment.

Since the coup, France has supported ousted President Bazoum and has called for his release, as have several other countries and organizations. However, the military regime remains rigid for the time being.

Written by PH

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