A coup plot has been foiled in Niger to overthrow President Mahamadou Issoufou. Issoufou made headlines in 2011 as the country’s first democratically elected leader after years of being a military-controlled state.
According to BBC News, 63-year-old President Issoufou noted in a speech on Niger state TV that the foiled coup plot would have seen the use of “aerial firepower” to remove him from power.
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“The main authors behind this crazy plot have all been identified and arrested,” continued Issoufou of the four military officials who have already been arrested, “with the exception of a single person who is on the run. The situation is calm and under control. The ongoing inquiry will allow us to identify the other actors and possible accomplices.”
Yahoo News, citing local reports, noted that those arrested to date include Air Force General Souleymane Salou, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Djibo Salou, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Idi Abdou Dan Haoua, and First Artillery Battalion head Nare Maidoka.
“They are suspected of wanting to carry out subversive activities, but nothing is clear for the moment,” an anonymous relative of Salou said, according to the Guardian.
According to Voice of America, Issoufou said that each of these suspects in the foiled coup plot are accused of “high treason.”
BBC News noted that conditions throughout the country are heated ahead of the West African country’s 2016 Presidential election, which Issoufou is projected to win. This is due to accusations that the ruling party is “interfering in the electoral process.” Niger’s other top candidate is former Prime Minister Senyi Oumarou, who was the runner up in 2011. The first round of the electoral process is scheduled for February 21 next year, as noted by Yahoo News.
The notion of a coup, however, is not new to the embattled country. Ten military personnel were arrested for a similar foiled assassination attempt and coup following President Issoufou’s historic election. The current political process in Niger was similarly established after a 2010 coup overthrew President Mamadou Tandja following his attempts to amend the constitution to extend his term.
The United Nations, which Yahoo News noted has called for “peaceful and credible” elections to bring stability to the country, recently ranked Niger as one of the world’s least-developed nations as well as the “worst country to live in.” Since achieving independence from France in 1960, the former French colony has fallen victim to a number of coup attempts and military-ruling institutions.
Niger is also a top uranium producer worldwide, making it a target of Islamist militants such as Boko Haram in the country. In October, the country entered into a state of emergency due to a series of cross-border attacks. According to Reuters, Niger’s Diffa region, which is home to at a minimum of 150,000 Boko Haram refugees, has seen 40 people killed in attacks blamed on the group and has endured at least 157 attacks since February.
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