Niger soldiers go on state TV to confirm coup

Niger soldiers go on state TV to confirm coup
# 19 February 2010 02:03 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Renegade soldiers in armored vehicles stormed Niger’s presidential palace with a hail of gunfire in broad daylight Thursday, kidnapping the country’s strongman president and then appearing on state television to declare they staged a successful coup, APA reports citing “Associated Press.”

The soldiers also said on state TV that the country’s constitution had been suspended and all its institutions dissolved. The spokesman for the soldiers said the country is now being led by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy. He asked citizens and the international community to have faith in their ideals which "could turn Niger into an example of democracy and of good governance."

Smoke rose from the white-hued multistory palace complex and the echo of machine-gunfire for at least two hours sent frightened residents running for cover, emptying the desert country’s downtown boulevards at midday.

Traore Amadou, a local journalist who was in the presidency when the shooting began, said President Mamadou Tandja was kidnapped by mutinous troops.

French radio station Radio France Internationale reported that the soldiers burst in and neutralized the presidential guard before entering the room where Tandja was holding a Cabinet meeting. They politely escorted him outside to a waiting car which drove him toward a military camp on the outskirts of the capital. His whereabouts remained unknown hours later when the soldiers took to the airwaves to announce the coup.

"Armored vehicles came into the palace and began shooting at the building," said Moussa Mounkaila, a palace driver. He said the mutinous troops had come from a military barracks at Tondibia, about seven miles (12 kilometers) west of the capital. Mounkaila said he saw some smoke rising from the damaged presidency before he jumped over a wall and fled.

Tandja had just gathered government ministers for a Cabinet meeting when the gunfire erupted outside.

Niger is ranked at the bottom on the U.N.’s worldwide human development index and has an astounding 70 percent illiteracy rate. The nation on the Sahara’s southern edge has been perpetually battered by drought and desertification.