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By Masterweb News Desk
Renegade soldiers in armored vehicles yesterday stormed Niger's presidential palace seizing President Mamadou Tandja and his ministers after fierce gun battle. Tandja was holding a Cabinet meeting at the time of the palace attack. Tandja and the ministers are reportedly being detained at an unknown location. Their whereabouts still remained unknown at the time of this report. The mutinous troops reportedly came from a military barrack in Tondibia, about 7 miles west of Niamey, the state capital. According to Moussa Mounkaila, a presidential driver who witnessed the attack: "Armored vehicles came into the palace and began shooting at the building." Mounkaila said he saw smoke rising from the damaged palace and jumped over a wall and fled.
The coup leader and spokesman for the junta, Major Adamou Harouna surrounded by a large number of soldiers, announced over state TV that they had staged a successful coup. He announced the suspension of the country's constitution and dissolution of all state institutions. He said the country was to be led by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy(CSRD). Harouna called on the people of Niger to "remain calm and stay united around the ideals postulated by the CSRD", to "make Niger an example of democracy and good governance." "We call on national and international opinions to support us in our patriotic action to save Niger and its population from poverty, deception and corruption," Harouna added. Col. Adamou Harouna, was former aide-de-camp of Niger's previous coup leader Major Daouda Mallam Wanke. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: President Mamadou Tandja of Niger
Major Wanke led the 1999 coup, seizing power after Niger's former military leader was gunned down in what the army dubbed "accidental discharge." Wanke organized free and fair elections less than a year later, which brought Tandja to power.
Niger's borders were reported closed with the imposition of dusk-to-dawn curfew in the capital Niamey. An Air France flight that was scheduled to land in Niamey on Thursday, was rerouted to neighboring Burkina Faso. A private plane of Senegalese foreign minister, dispatched by Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade met the same faith as it was prevented from landing in Niamey. The situation in Niamey remains tense, but sources say the borders were reopened today. The bodies of three soldiers, casualties from the palace attack, have been deposited at a military mortuary. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Niger
Tandja became president in 1999 after winning what many described as free and fair election. He manipulated the constitution removing term limits that allowed him to hang onto power pass his full term. The amendment also gave him near-totalitarian powers.
Niger became tense and isolated after Tandja's manipulations. The 15-nation regional bloc of West African states (ECOWAS) suspended Niger from its ranks. The United States suspended non-humanitarian aid to Niger, imposing travel restrictions on some government officials.
*Tags: Nigerians, Niger, Coup, Army, Military, Africa, Masterweb
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