Coup: Niger junta defiant, reject ECOWAS ultimatum

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Niger on Monday awaits a response from the West African regional bloc after coup leaders ignored a deadline to reinstate the ousted president a move the bloc warned could lead to military intervention.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said it will issue a statement on its next steps, responding to the junta’s refusal to stand down by Sunday, as foreign powers said they hoped for a peaceful resolution.

The bloc has taken a hard stance on the July 26 power grab, the region’s seventh coup in three years.

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Given its uranium and oil riches and its pivotal role in a war with Islamist militants, Niger holds economic and strategic importance for the United States, Europe, China and Russia.

On Aug. 6, as the deadline expired, the junta closed its airspace until further notice and said there had been a pre-deployment of forces in preparation for intervention.

“Niger’s armed forces and all our defence and security forces, backed by the unfailing support of our people, are ready to defend the integrity of our territory,” said a junta representative in a statement on national television.

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An escalation in the standoff with ECOWAS would further destabilise one of the world’s poorest regions, which is in the grip of a hunger crisis and battling an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced millions to flee.

ECOWAS defence chiefs agreed on a possible military action plan if the detained president, Mohamed Bazoum, is not released and reinstated, although they said the operational decisions of when and where to strike would be decided by heads of state.

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Regional unity is compromised by a promise from the ruling juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso to come to Niger’s defence if needed.

Both countries were sending delegations to Niamey to show solidarity, the Malian army said on social media on Monday. (Blueprint)

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