US to hold Niger coup leaders accountable for president’s safety

Washington has warned that it will hold Niger’s new military government accountable for the safety of detained President Mohamed Bazoum, his family, and other members of the deposed government.

Niger’s ousted leader has been in detention at his residence since members of the presidential guard took power more than two weeks ago.

In a statement on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Bazoum and others were being held captive “illegally” in “unacceptable conditions,” and that they must be released immediately.

The US will hold the Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) accountable for the safety and security of President Bazoum, his family, and detained members of the government,” Blinken added.

The West African regional authority ECOWAS ordered on Thursday the deployment of a standby force for possible armed intervention in Niamey, saying the coup leaders have “defiantly” resisted all diplomatic efforts to restore democratic order.

The bloc, however, insisted that using force would be a “last resort” as they sought peaceful solutions to the crisis in landlocked Niger.

France and the US – which have military bases in the West African country to assist in the fight against Islamic rebels in the Sahel region – have said they endorse the ECOWAS resolution against the coup leaders.

Both Washington and Paris previously suspended certain foreign assistance programs, joining West African leaders in imposing sanctions to punish the new military government.

Blinken maintained on Thursday that the US stands with Nigeriens in their efforts to achieve democracy.

The United States appreciates the determination of ECOWAS to explore all options for the peaceful resolution of the crisis,” he said.

According to The Associated Press, Niger’s military government – which has received support from military rulers in Mali and Burkina Faso – has threatened to kill Bazoum if the regional authority deploys armed troops to restore his rule.

West African army chiefs will meet in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Saturday to discuss the situation in neighboring Niger, after ECOWAS approved the activation of a standby troop.

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