Niger’s new military junta has asked for help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner as a deadline approaches for it to release the country’s ousted president.
One the coup leaders General Salifou Mody made the request while visiting neighbouring Mali.
Niger’s junta faces a 6 August deadline set by the regional bloc known as ECOWAS to release and reinstate the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who has described himself as a hostage.
Demonstrations have taken place; some in support and some against the coup as international pressure on the junta increases.
Niger has been seen as the West’s last reliable counterterrorism partner in a region where coups have been common in recent years.
Foreign nationals have been leaving the country over the past week, mainly on French military aircraft.
Juntas have rejected former coloniser France and turned towards Russia. Wagner already operates in a handful of African countries, including Mali.
It remains unclear what the international community's response would be to Wagner's involvement in Niger.
While some in Niger are bracing for a fight, others are trying to cope with travel and economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS after the coup that have closed land and air borders with ECOWAS countries and suspended commercial and financial transactions with them.
Residents said the price of goods is rising and there’s limited access to cash.