Coup occurs in Niger, president seized

10:43, February 19, 2010      

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A group of soldiers launched a military coup in Niamey, capital of Niger, on Thursday, seizing the country's president, Mamadou Tandja, said reports from Niamey.


Niger's President Mamadou Tandja (R) waves upon his arrival to welcome France's President Nicolas Sarkozy at Diori Hamari airport in Niamey March 27, 2009. (File Photo)

The soldiers in armored vehicles stormed the presidential palace with gunfires, and said they had dissolved the government, said the reports.

"The government is dissolved," said a spokesman for the military junta, named the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), in a statement on state television.

The CSRD described the coup as "successful" in putting an end to the tense political situation in the country, saying its head would be squadron leader Salou Djibo, whose heavily armed troops played a major role in Thursday's coup.

The CSRD spokesman also called on the people of Niger and the international community to have faith in their ideals which "could turn Niger into an example of democracy and of good governance."

The CSRD said it had decided to suspend the constitution of the Sixth Republic and dissolve all its institutions.

The statement did not mention the whereabouts of Tandja, but reports said he had been seized along with several other ministers.

The new military council declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew and announced the closure of all border entry points.

Explosions and bursts of gunfire were heard in the direction of the Presidential Palace in Niamey. Fierce shooting lasted between midday (1200 GMT) and 2:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Thursday.

Several people were injured in the fighting and sent to a hospital in Niamey.

French radio station Radio France Internationale said that the soldiers burst in and neutralized the presidential guard before entering the room where Tandja was holding a Cabinet meeting. They politely escorted him outside to a waiting car which drove him toward a military camp on the outskirts of the capital.

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon was closely following the developments in Niger, said a statement attributable to Ban's spokesperson.

It said Ban "is receiving regular updates from his Special Representative for West Africa Said Bjinnit." He has also called on the stakeholders in Niger to swiftly revert to constitutional order in the settlement of the political crisis that developed in that country last year.

In another development, France has advised its citizens not to travel to Niger while warning those in Niamey to stay indoors.

Niger, a former French colony, gained independence in 1960. Local media estimate that there are around 1,500 French nationals living in the central-west African country, while 500 Europeans reside in Niamey.

Tandja, who has been elected twice since 1999, drew criticism at home and international sanctions after managing to amend the constitution last year to pursue a third term of office.

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States deemed the move as unconstitutional and suspended Niger to press it to restore the constitutional order.

Source: Xinhua

http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2010-02/20/nw.D110000renmrb_20100220_1-03.htm?div=-1
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