European countries to begin evacuation of citizens from Niger

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France, Spain and Italy on Tuesday announced that plans to evacuate French citizens are underway in Niger, days after President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by members of his presidential guard.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement that the evacuation would start on Tuesday.

“Considering the situation in Niamey, the violence against our embassy the day before yesterday, and the fact that the air space is shut and our citizens cannot leave by their own means, France is preparing the evacuation of its citizens and (other) European citizens who want to leave the country,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Italy’s foreign minister also said on Tuesday that the government would arrange a special flight to repatriate nationals from Niger following the coup.

“The Italian government has decided to offer our fellow citizens in Niamey the chance to leave the city on a special flight to Italy,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Spanish government has also said it is preparing to evacuate more than 70 Spaniards in Niger by air. However, a spokesperson for the Spanish foreign ministry declined to provide further details about the operation with Reuters news agency, citing security concerns.

A changing landscape

The July 26 removal of Bazoum – the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa – has sent shockwaves across the region.

While the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions on Niger and threatened the possible use of force if Bazoum is not reinstated within a week, the military governments of Burkina Faso and Mali have said any external military aggression in Niger would be considered an act of war against them.

On Sunday, supporters of the coup burned French flags and attacked the French embassy in Niger’s capital, Niamey. Afterward, French President Emmanuel Macron said any attacks on French interests in Niger would be met with a “swift and uncompromising response”.

French nuclear fuels company Orano said its activities were continuing in Niger and would not be affected by the evacuations, as 99 percent of staff were Nigerien nationals.

France has had troops in the region for a decade helping to fight armed groups, but some locals say they want the former colonial ruler to stop intervening in their affairs.

Landlocked Niger has had a turbulent political history since gaining independence in 1960. Before Wednesday, there had been four coups and numerous other attempts, including two previously against Bazoum.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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