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Tensions escalate as Niger accuses France of troop buildup in ECOWAS states

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Niger’s military has leveled accusations against France, alleging the gathering of forces and equipment in multiple West African nations, signaling potential military intervention against Niamey. Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson for Niger’s coup leaders, made these claims during a televised address on Saturday.

According to Colonel Abdramane, France is steadily deploying troops in countries within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as part of preparations for a collaborative aggression against Niger. Notably, French military cargo aircraft have facilitated the transport of significant quantities of war materials and equipment to countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Benin.

These allegations come amidst escalating tensions between Niger and France, its former colonial ruler, following a military coup on July 26. Paris has staunchly supported the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and resisted Niger’s demands for the removal of its troops and envoy from the Sahel state.

Niger also faces a standoff with the ECOWAS bloc, which has threatened military intervention if diplomatic efforts to reinstate President Bazoum prove unsuccessful. In Niamey, ongoing protests near a military base housing French soldiers have demanded their withdrawal. France currently maintains around 1,500 soldiers in Niger as part of counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated groups.

A French defense ministry source acknowledged discussions with the military regime regarding the potential withdrawal of certain elements of its presence in Niger. This aligns with statements made by military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, who emphasized the swift departure of French troops while expressing hope for an agreement with ECOWAS.

Meanwhile, the United States, with approximately 1,100 soldiers in Niger, has begun relocating its troops to the central city of Agadez as a precautionary measure, as announced by the US Department of Defense.

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