A coup attempt is said to be underway in Niger after automatic weapons fire was reported coming from the presidential palace in the capital Niamey.
Witnesses say heavy fighting erupted around midday and smoke was seen rising from the palace as soldiers set up road blocks, sealing off strategic buildings.
An unnamed intelligence officer said the presidential guard was attempting to quash a coup attempt.
Political tensions have been high in the African uranium exporting nation since the President Mamadou Tandja orchestrated constitutional reform extending his term beyond a second five-year mandate which expired in December.
Washington has denounced the reforms as undermining the rule of law while the EU has delayed aid payments.