Niger Republic government said it thwarted an “attempted coup” yesterday, ahead of Mohamed Bazoum’s inauguration as President on Friday, the first elected transition in the country’s history since independence from France in 1960.
A government statement said “an attempted coup had been blocked”, condemning what it called a “cowardly and regressive act which sought to threaten democracy and the state of law.”
It said an investigation had been launched and “several people connected with this attempted coup have been detained and others are being actively sought.”
“ The situation is totally under control,” the statement added, calling on the public to “carry on with normal life.”
Residents in the capital Niamey earlier reported hearing gunfire in the middle of the night in the district where the presidency is located.
In short video clips posted on social networks, only several seconds in length, sporadic bursts of gunfire could be heard in the pitch dark.
AFP quoted a security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying “there were some arrests among a few members of the army” who had been behind the coup bid.
“The Presidential Guard retaliated, preventing this group of soldiers from approaching the presidential palace,” the source said.
A resident of Niamey’s Plateau district, which includes the president’s official residence and offices told AFP: “It was around 3 am, we heard shots from heavy and light weapons and it lasted 15 minutes before stopping, followed by shots from light weapons.”
“The gunfire lasted about 20 minutes,” another resident said.
A third resident spoke of “intense shooting, with heavy and light weapons”. Online newspaper actuniger.com reported that calm had returned by around 4 am.
It was not immediately possible to verify the videos independently. Bazoum is a former interior minister and right-hand man of outgoing president Mahamadou Issoufou, who is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms, a move that has been warmly praised by France and others.