Niger's military leaders have reportedly asked Russian mercenary group for help against a potential ECOWAS intervention.
Niger’s new military junta has reportedly asked Russian mercenary group Wagner for help as the deadline approaches for it to release the country’s ousted president or face possible military intervention by the West African regional bloc.
A journalist and senior research fellow at the Soufan Centre, Wassim Nasr, told the Associated Press that the request was made during a visit by coup leader, General Salifou Mody, to neighboring Mali.
Nasr said three Malian sources and a French diplomat confirmed the meeting, which was first reported by French television station, France 24.
“They need (Wagner) because they will become their guarantee to hold onto power,” he said, adding that the group is believed to be considering the request.
A Western military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment, told the AP they have also heard reports that the junta asked Wagner for help.
Niger’s junta faces a Sunday deadline set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to release and reinstate democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
Defence chiefs from the regional group on Friday finalised an intervention plan and urged militaries to prepare resources. This after a mediation team sent to Niger on Thursday was not allowed to enter or meet with military government leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani.
France’s foreign affairs minister, Catherine Colonna, on Saturday said the threat of an intervention by ECOWAS was credible.
“There's still a little time left for the putschists to give back power and listen to the unanimous demands of countries in the region and the international community,” she said.
Niger has been seen as the West’s last reliable counterterrorism partner in a region where coups have been common in recent years.