Europeans have been evacuated from Niger on flights that have landed in France and Italy.
Following last week’s coup, France started evacuating its citizens from Niger; 262 of them landed in Paris early on Wednesday.
Following the coup, there have been protests against the former colonial power, and the French embassy has even come under attack.
As part of its attempts to combat Islamist militants, France claims it has no plans to repatriate the roughly 1,000 French soldiers stationed there.
Germany has urged its citizens to accept France’s offer to assist other Europeans as Italy organized a flight that arrived in Rome on Wednesday shortly after 5:00 a.m. local time carrying 87 evacuees.
According to the Reuters news agency, the aircraft was carrying 36 Italians, 21 Americans, and one British citizen.
Burkina Faso and Mali’s juntas have issued warnings that any attempt to forcibly return the deposed president would be interpreted as a declaration of war.
Following their own coups in recent years, the two neighbors, who were also once French colonies, have both turned away from France and toward Russia.
Their warning represents a significant development that could worsen the tense situation in a region where there is a militant Islamist insurgency.
On Wednesday, the military leaders of West Africa will gather in Nigeria to plan a potential invasion of Niger.
The military government of Niger has declared that its borders with Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, and Chad are now open. The land border with Nigeria is still blocked, though.
France relocated the epicenter of its regional counterterrorism activities to Niger after Mali’s military officials decided to collaborate with the Russian Wagner mercenaries in 2021.
The uranium-rich nation of Niger has been a crucial ally of the West in the war against Islamic extremism in the Sahel. There are military outposts for both France and the US.
On Sunday, protestors screamed “Long live Russia,” “Long live Putin,” and “Down with France” in front of the French embassy in the nation’s capital, Niamey.
They also set fire to the embassy complex’s walls.
Because it is now difficult for anyone to escape Niger using their own means due to the blockade of its airspace, France supplied planes.
Less than 100 Germans and 600 French nationals are thought to reside in Niger.
According to the AFP news agency, there are roughly 90 Italians in Niamey out of a total of just under 500 in the entire nation. The majority of these individuals are in the military.
The Reuters news agency reports that Spain is also arranging for the air evacuation of more than 70 Spaniards.
While the European Union announced it has no immediate plans to evacuate its employees, the United Kingdom is not organizing an evacuation and has advised its citizens in Niger to stay home.
According to AFP, the US also declared that it was not evacuating its citizens since it saw no immediate threat to them or its facilities.
According to reports, Niamey was experiencing peace.
Anthony Garcia, a French refugee, claimed that he was trying to pack as little as possible for the trip: “We were asked to take just a small bag with essentials, because we can’t take the suitcase.”
Earlier, France had praised the Ecowas ultimatum, which gave the junta in Niger a week to restore elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who had been imprisoned in the Niamey presidential palace.
The following day, President Mahamat Idris Déby of Chad traveled to Niger to spearhead mediation efforts on behalf of the Ecowas. He was photographed with Mr. Bazoum.
Following these diplomatic actions, Burkina Faso and Mali jointly threatened that they would leave the bloc and defend their eastern neighbor if Ecowas acted militarily.
Such an intervention, they claimed, would be terrible and unstable.
Following recent coups, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea are all presently suspended from Ecowas.
When Yahya Jammeh refused to resign as president after Adama Barrow won the election in The Gambia in 2017, Ecowas’s final significant military operation took place there. After the deployment of West African forces, Mr. Jammeh fled to Equatorial Guinea.
Following a failed coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau last year, the regional organization also sent troops to support the government there.
Algeria, Niger’s northern neighbor, has likewise recommended restraint in regards to any potential military intervention, claiming that doing so “would lead to an escalation of the current crisis.”
The junta in Niger has not responded to the Ecowas demand, but it has sworn to protect the nation from any “aggression” by Western or regional forces. France was charged with plotting an invasion.
However, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna informed French channel BFMTV on Monday night that the claim was false.
I’m not sure if everyone in Niger sleeps with a Russian flag under their pillow, she said, a suggestion that has been accepted by the mysterious Wagner organization.
“However, it’s possible that Russia tries to use the circumstance. It operates in other regional nations. It’s only a theory.
The National Security Council spokesman for the White House, John Kirby, stated at a briefing on Tuesday that the US has no proof that Russia was behind the coup.
Reuters reports that the French nuclear fuel business Orano’s operations in Niger won’t be impacted by the evacuation plans because the majority of its employees are Nigerians.
In Niger, there are no worthwhile possibilities. A civil war would almost surely result from a military intervention by the West, and the West appears destined to lose its strategically important anti-terror outposts there.
Following the present exodus of French nationals, US and French military outposts and their 2,500 personnel who have been assisting Niger in its war against jihadist terrorists will likely be abandoned.
Who then gains from all of this? Most definitely not the people of Niger. Despite the fact that not everyone favored the presence of Western forces, the nation nonetheless received hundreds of millions of euros in annual financial and military aid. That’s now come to an end.
It appears like Russia’s Wagner force will be attempting to occupy the gap left by the departing troops because Russian flags have suddenly sprouted on the streets in a curiously short period of time.
All this chaos and uncertainty is a strategic gift for the jihadists of Boko Haram, as well as the al-Qaeda and Islamic State factions active throughout the Sahel.
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