Niger troops on 'maximum alert' in face of military threat
Niger's military government has ordered its armed forces to go on the highest alert in the face of an increased threat of military action by West African regional bloc ECOWAS.
ECOWAS is calling for the restoration of the West African country’s deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum.
On Friday, Niger’s defense chief issued an internal document, which was shared widely online on Saturday, ordering a "maximum alert" and saying, “Threats of aggression to the national territory are increasingly being felt.”
It said the order would allow forces to respond adequately in case of any attack and "avoid a general surprise.”
Following the ouster of the Western-backed president by the military junta in a coup on July 26, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued an ultimatum, demanding the military government to relinquish power by August 6 or face military action.
ECOWAS, backed by the United States and France, has been trying to negotiate with coup leaders, but at the same time, it has threatened to deploy troops to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.
Earlier this month, ECOWAS said it was ready to activate a so-called stand-by force for a possible intervention.
The decision has raised fears of an escalation that could further destabilize the Sahel region.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria have warned about the military intervention, saying it would "practically exacerbate the crisis and inflict further suffering on the innocent people in the Niger Republic and the wider region."
Mali and Burkina Faso have said an intervention would be tantamount to a declaration of war on them. Both countries are being ruled by military governments who seized power in coups.
Foreign ministers of Mali, Burkinabe, and Niger met on Thursday in the Nigerien capital Niamey to discuss boosting cooperation on security and other joint issues.
Niger's coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani also warned that the country was prepared to defend itself if needed.
"If an aggression were to be undertaken against us, it would not be the walk in the park that some believe.”
The Niger coup has been the fifth successful one in nine attempts in West Africa since 2020.