Niger President says French troops guilty of ‘reprehensible acts’ in West African nation
Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum called on Friday for an investigation into a French military convoy that killed three civilians while passing through the West African nation.
Bazoum urged Paris to punish the troops who were guilty of “reprehensible acts".
The convoy making its way to Mali ran into protests in Niger last month after being delayed by other rallies in Burkina Faso, with the Nigerien government reporting three deaths and more than a dozen wounded.
"With regard to the French soldiers, I demand that the French authorities open an investigation with a view to punishing those who are guilty of reprehensible acts", Bazoum said in a televised address marking Niger's 63rd anniversary of independence from France.
The supply convoy, which arrived on African soil in Ivory Coast earlier in the month, had crossed into Burkina Faso before entering Niger on its way to its destination in Mali.
It was heading for a base at Gao, central Mali, a hub of France's Barkhane operation which is shoring up allies in the Sahel against a jihadist insurgency that began in northern Mali nearly a decade ago.
But clashes broke out at Tera in western Niger. French army spokesman Pascal Ianni said at the time that "no French soldier was wounded".
Anti-French sentiment is rampant in West Africa. On the streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, many say that France is actually trying to keep the country weak so the former colonial power can exploit secret gold and oil reserves in the Sahara.
Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said last month that he has evidence that France has been training terrorist groups operating in the nation.
Maiga said French troops had created an enclave in Kidal, a town in the desert region of northern Mali, and handed it over to a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.
Observers accuse France of pursuing neo-colonialism in Africa, falsely claiming to fight terrorism as a pretext to maintain its influence in the region.