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Friday, July 19, 2024

France to withdraw ambassador and troops from Niger after coup: Macron

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France has announced that it will end its diplomatic and military presence in Niger, following the coup that toppled the democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum in July. French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that he had decided to recall his ambassador and withdraw all French troops from the West African country by the end of the year.

Macron said he had spoken to Bazoum, who is being held by the coup leaders, and told him that France did not recognize the legitimacy of the new junta. He said that France’s military cooperation with Niger was over, as the coup leaders did not want to fight against terrorism anymore.

France has about 1,500 soldiers in Niger as part of its anti-jihadist operation in the Sahel region, where it has been supporting local forces against Islamist militants. France had repeatedly refused to comply with the order by the junta to expel its ambassador, Sylvain Itte, who was given 48 hours to leave in August. Macron said that the ambassador and his staff were surviving on military rations in the embassy, as they were cut off from food deliveries.

The coup in Niger was the third such putsch in the region in as many years, after similar actions in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022 that also forced the pullouts of French troops. Macron said that the coup in Niger was particularly painful for him, as he had tried to make Niger a special ally and a hub for France’s presence in the region.

He said that Bazoum was targeted by the coup because he was carrying out courageous reforms and because there was a political and ethnic vendetta against him. He reaffirmed his support for Bazoum, whom he called the “sole legitimate authority” in Niger.

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