Niger coup: Junta scraps military pacts with France
Between 1,000 and 1,500 French troops are currently stationed in Niger, which has become an important staging ground in a fight against Islamist militants affiliated with "Islamic State" and al-Qaeda
Niger's junta said in a televised statement late Thursday that it has "decided to scrap cooperation agreements in the field of security and defense" with France.
Between 1,000 and 1,500 French troops are currently stationed in Niger, which has become an important staging ground in a fight against Islamist militants affiliated with "Islamic State" and al-Qaeda.
After France withdrew from Mali and Burkina Faso following military coups in both countries, the government of ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum was one of France's last strategic allies in the restive Sahel region.
It is currently unclear if and when French forces will begin withdrawing from Niger. The French general staff in Paris has told Le Monde newspaper that it does not recognize any other authority than Bazoum.
Since the coup led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani on July 26, counterterrorism operations carried out by the French, who are under the command of the Nigerien General Staff, have been suspended.
Anti-France protests continue
On Thursday, the military junta reportedly also blocked French international news broadcasters France 24 and Radio France Internationale.
A senior Nigerien official told the AFP news agency that the broadcasters were blocked "on the instructions of the new military authorities."
The French Foreign Ministry condemned the move on Thursday night.
"France reaffirms its constant engagement and determination in favor of freedom of expression, the press, and the protection of journalists," it said in a statement.
The junta's crackdown on French government-funded media came as pro-coup protests continued.
Thousands of people gathered in Niamey on what was also Niger's Independence Day. People held anti-France posters and waved Russian flags.
The crowd shouted "Down with France" and "Long live Russia, long live [Vladimir] Putin," among other things.
Tahirou Ibrahim Garka, a close ally of the deposed Nigerien president who previously held public positions, believes the protests do not reflect the sentiment of most Nigeriens.
"What you saw today is a manifestation organized by the the military," he told DW. "Most of them are the military who put on clothes like civilians."
Ahead of the protests, Paris had also asked Nigerien authorities to ensure the safety of the French Embassy after it was attacked by protesters last week,
"I think people who protest against France made a big mistake because it's not about France," Garka added.
"It's about our country. You know, a president who is democratic, democratically elected was taken hostage by somebody just because he got weapons."
Hundreds of coup supporters also took to the streets in Agadez, on the edge of the Sahara desert, and Filingue, the hometown of junta leader General Tchiani.
ECOWAS delegation lands in Niamey
A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also landed in Niamey on Thursday night.
This week, ECOWAS said it could stage an intervention if the junta in Niger does not reinstate democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum by Sunday, although it said military action was a "last resort."
Late Thursday, Niger's junta warned it would respond immediately to any "aggression or attempted aggression" by West African countries.
Senegal said on Thursday it would send soldiers to join ECOWAS if it decided to intervene militarily in Niger.
"It is one coup too many," said Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall, referring to the coups in Burkina Faso and Mali that also installed pro-Russia juntas.