The military leadership in Niger announced on Thursday that they successfully intercepted an alleged escape plan by the former President, Mohamed Bazoum. The attempt was purportedly made to seek asylum in the adjacent nation of Nigeria. This comes after Bazoum’s nearly three-month-long detention, subsequent to his removal in a military coup.
According to the junta’s statement, Bazoum, along with his family and two household staff, had orchestrated their escape around 3:00 am on Thursday. They allege that certain security insiders facilitated their transportation to the peripheries of the capital, Niamey. From there, the plan was to airlift them via two helicopters, reportedly owned by an unidentified foreign nation, to Nigeria.
The junta’s spokesperson emphasized the swift action of the defense and security units in averting this alleged destabilization attempt. They further stated, “Several primary culprits and their associates are now in custody.”
The current location of Bazoum remains undisclosed.
Since the coup on July 27, Bazoum, who has yet to formally step down from the presidential role, has been under house arrest. In communications shared with CNN in August, Bazoum claimed he was isolated, devoid of electricity, and provided with minimal sustenance by his captors.
Subsequently, the junta announced their intent to charge Bazoum with “high treason,” claiming to possess the requisite evidence.
Despite international and regional pressures, the junta continues to maintain its grip on power. The United States, in a recent move, suspended its aid programs to Niger, categorically labeling Bazoum’s removal as a coup.
The junta rationalizes their takeover, citing Niger’s escalating security concerns and its faltering economy.
This coup in Niger is a part of a series of military interventions in the West African Sahel region, an area that has been battling jihadist insurgencies for an extended period.