Leaders of the coup in Niger Republic have reportedly told a top US diplomat that they would kill ousted President Mohamed Bazoum if neighbouring countries attempted any military intervention.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that the junta disclosed this to two western officials, amid the announcement of the deployment of a standby force by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday.
According to the AP, representatives of the junta told Victoria Nuland, US under secretary of state, of the threat to Bazoum during her visit to the country this week.
The report also said a US official confirmed the account on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Aneliese Bernard, a former US state department official who specialised in African affairs, said the threats are capable of escalating tensions on all sides.
“Still, this junta has escalated its moves so quickly that it is possible they do something more extreme, as that has been their approach so far,” she was quoted as saying.
In a communique issued at the close of Thursday’s meeting in Abuja, ECOWAS arrived at a number of decisions to address the Niger crisis.
The bloc condemned Bazoum’s hostage condition and held the military government in Niger responsible for the safety of the detained president, his family and the democratically elected administration.
ECOWAS also directed the president of the commission to monitor the implementation of the sanctions on Niger thus far and ordered the “committee of the chief of defence staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately”.
Bazoum was deposed on July 26 in a bloodless coup. The Niger junta has since formed a cabinet to oversee the nation’s affairs.