The United States has ordered the evacuation of some staff and families from its embassy in Niger’s capital, Niamey, amid a military coup that has ousted the West African country’s democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
“Today, we ordered the temporary departure of non-emergency personnel and eligible family members from Niger,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Aug. 2.
“The U.S. is committed to our relationship with the people of Niger. The embassy remains open, and our leaders are diplomatically engaged at the highest levels.”
A press release from the State Department on Aug. 2 said that the U.S. Embassy in Niamey “has temporarily reduced its personnel, suspended routine services, and is only able to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Niger.”
The department raised its travel advisory to “Level 4: Do Not Travel” and warned Americans not to travel to Niger, noting that U.S. citizens had previously been advised to “reconsider travel to Niger due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping.”
It comes amid the house arrest of Niger’s president on July 26, which marked the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa.
A military officer—Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guards unit—declared himself Niger’s new ruler on July 28.
Niger is a key Western ally in the region’s fight against Islamist insurgents. Foreign powers have condemned the takeover, fearing it could allow the extremists to gain ground.
France, the United States, Germany, and Italy have troops in Niger on counterinsurgency and training missions, helping the army to fight groups linked to the terrorist groups al-Qaeda and ISIS in Africa’s Sahel region.
There are about 1,100 U.S. troops in Niger, where the U.S. military operates from two bases.
France, Italy, and Spain have announced evacuations of their citizens and other European citizens in Niamey, amid concerns they could become trapped. Nearly 1,000 people had left on four flights, and a fifth evacuation was underway, France’s ministry of foreign affairs said.
On late Aug. 2, Niger’s new military ruler Mr. Tchiani warned against foreign meddling and military intervention against the coup.
“We therefore call on the people of Niger as a whole and their unity to defeat all those who want to inflict unspeakable suffering on our hard-working populations and destabilize our country,” Mr. Tchiani said.
Mr. Tchiani also promised to create the conditions for a peaceful transition to elections following his ouster of Mr. Bazoum.
The West African regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has threatened to use military force if Mr. Bazoum isn’t released from house arrest and reinstated by Aug. 6. The bloc has imposed severe travel and economic sanctions.
Mr. Tchiani has characterized the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS as illegal, unfair, inhuman and unprecedented. He said that Niger is facing difficult times ahead and that the “hostile and radical” attitudes of those who oppose his rule provide no added value.
Mr. Blinken spoke with Mr. Bazoum on a call on Aug. 1, and conveyed the United States’s “unwavering support” for Mr. Bazoum and Niger’s democracy, according to the State Department.
The U.S. Secretary of State also “underscored that the United States rejects efforts to overturn the constitutional order, and stands with the people of Niger, [ECOWAS], the African Union and international partners in support of democratic governance and respect for the rule of law and human rights.”
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times