Muslims in Niger pray for departure of French forces from African nation
Muslims in Niger have prayed outside a French military base in the capital Niamey for the departure of France from the West African country.
The prayers were held on Friday in support of the military leaders who ousted Paris-allied president Mohamed Bazoum in July in a military takeover.
Relations have deteriorated between Paris and Niamey ever since the putsch, due to the former's refusal to recognize Niger's new rulers and its throwing support behind the former president.
Last month, Niger's military leaders declared French Ambassador Sylvain Itte persona non grata and revoked his diplomatic immunity.
"We have demanded, the people of Niger, the sovereign people of Niger, have demanded that the French ambassador, the terrorist forces of France, the French force, leave our territory. And for this, we are ready to mobilize, to respond to all patriotic appeals so that Niger can win and regain its true and real sovereignty after 63 years of fighting," Idrissa Maiga Alzouma, a Niamey resident, told Reuters.
"The idea of doing a collective prayer was to ask the good Lord, to have the good Lord's blessing and to ask the good Lord to help us in this struggle...," said Ibrahim Boubacar, another Niamey resident. "We could indeed pray in another mosque. But we can't. We have to do it here, in front of them, so they can hear us," he added.
France has roughly 1,500 forces deployed in Niger.
On Monday, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, the prime minister of Niger’s military government, said "contacts" were underway to pave the way for the "very swift" withdrawal of the troops.