The Nigerien military has backed the coup leaders who have reportedly seized the president of the West African country, prompting warnings from international leaders of the threat to democracy.
Niger’s army command said Thursday it was supporting the takeover against President Mohamed Bazoum to prevent bloodshed and maintain “the well-being of our populations.”
In a statement released on Twitter it said it had to “preserve the physical integrity of the president of the republic and his family,” and “avoid a deadly confrontation… that could create a bloodbath and affect the security of the population.”
It warned that any foreign military intervention “risks having disastrous and uncontrolled consequences.”
“Our country remains prey to insecurity imposed by the terrorist armed groups and other organized criminal groups,” the statement added.
President Bazoum was apparently taken by members of the presidential guard on Wednesday, although his precise whereabouts remain unknown.
On Thursday, the country’s presidential office said, “All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it.”
The statement, posted on Twitter, which is now officially known as X, made no mention of whether the president is still being detained.
When Bazoum entered office in 2021, it was the country’s first democratic transfer of power following years of military coups since it gained independence from France in 1960.
Scenes emerged on Wednesday of hundreds of pro-Bazoum demonstrators filling the streets of the capital Niamey, as national institutions were shut down and country’s land borders remained temporarily closed.
World leaders and humanitarian bodies issued stark warnings against the actors involved in the coup.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk declared he is “shocked and distressed” by the events.
“It is in the interests of all the people of Niger that the important democratic gains made in recent years are safeguarded and preserved,” Türk said Thursday.
The Chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said on Wednesday he “strongly condemned” the actions by soldiers in Niger.
White House officials said they “strongly condemn any effort to detain or subvert the functioning of Niger’s democratically elected government.”
The French, German and UK foreign ministries have also criticized the power grab.
CNN has so far been unable to reach the country’s Ministry of Defense and Interior Ministry for comment.
A member of the National Guard guarding the building for both ministries told CNN on Wednesday that there were no officials inside.
The US Embassy in Niger said it had received reports of political instability within the capital Niamey, and advised people to “limit unnecessary movements.”
Agency footage from the capital Niamey showed the rest of the city appearing calm.