France will begin evacuating its nationals from Niger on Tuesday, the foreign ministry said, after a coup last week toppled the country’s pro-Western leader.
The decision to move citizens out was prompted by attacks on the French embassy in Niamey, and the closure of Niger’s airspace which made regular departures impossible, the ministry said in a statement.
France had earlier on Tuesday said that it was preparing an evacuation “in the face of a deteriorating security situation in Niamey” but gave no timeframe.
There are an estimated 600 French nationals in Niger, not counting visiting tourists or French residents currently outside the country.
The foreign ministry said France was also offering to evacuate other European nationals.
The French government convened a ministerial meeting Tuesday to decide on the exact modalities of the evacuation.
A source close to the operation told AFP that France was planning on using military personnel transport planes.
Niger President Mohamed Bazoum was detained by his own presidential guard in a third coup in as many years in the Sahel, following putsches in neighbouring fellow former French colonies of Mali and Burkina Faso.
France and the United States have between them deployed 2,600 soldiers in Niger to battle jihadists.
Niger’s junta on Monday accused France of seeking to “intervene militarily” to reinstate Bazoum, which French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna denied.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday vowed “immediate and uncompromising” action if French citizens or interests were attacked, after thousands rallied outside the French embassy in Niamey.
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