Coup leader declared head of state in Niger

Leaders of a coup in Niger declared General Abdourahamane Tiani as the new head of state on Friday days after saying they had ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in the seventh military takeover in West and Central Africa in less than three years.

The upheaval has raised concerns about the security of a region where Niger has been a key ally of Western powers seeking to contain insurgencies by groups linked to Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State.

Tiani was the head of the presidential guard whose soldiers shut Bazoum inside his palace on Wednesday, leaving confusion over who was in control.

The general appeared on state television on Friday with a banner on the screen that described himself as the president of a newly formed military body, the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP).

“The President of the CNSP is the head of state,” an officer said, reading out a statement.

The constitution has been suspended, all government institutions dissolved and the CNSP will exercise all legislative and executive power until constitutional order returns, the statement added. It gave no timelines.

African countries, Western powers, regional and international organisations have reacted with alarm, insisting that Bazoum be freed and democracy restored.

Former colonial power France said on Friday it still recognised Bazoum as the legitimate leader.

One of the few to welcome the takeover was Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin , who remains active despite leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass last month. He described the coup as an uprising against colonisers and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said constitutional order should be restored.

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