Niger: Gunfire Erupts Capital Days Before Inauguration

Niger's presidential palace in the capital Niamey (file photo).

Gunfire was reported overnight in the Niger capital of Niamey, just days before the country's new president Mohamed Bazoum takes office.

Local residents in Niger's capital Niamey reported hearing heavy gunfire near the presidential palace on Wednesday morning.

The gunfire prompted fears of a potential coup attempt, coming just two days before Niger's first ever democratic transition of power.

President-elect Mohamed Bazoum is due to be sworn in on Friday -- taking over from President Mahamane Ousmane, who disputed the election results.

What we know so far

The gunfire reportedly began around 3 a.m. local time (0400 CET) and lasted for around 30 minutes.

Local residents told news agency AFP that there was "intense shooting, with heavy and light weapons." In videos posted on social media, the sound of short bursts of gunfire could be heard in the darkness.

It was not immediately clear who was involved in the reported shootout. Anonymous security sources told both AFP and Reuters that the situation was under control after assailants attempted to seize the palace.

One source described the attack to AFP as an "attempted coup" and that soldiers had been arrested.

Niger officials have not yet commented on the situation.

The United States Embassy in Niamey issued a security alert saying it would not open its doors on Wednesday "due to gunshots heard near our neighborhood."

The situation is 'calm'

DW correspondent Abdoulkarim Mahamadou said Niger's state broadcaster initially began its program as usual at 6:30 a.m. with no mention to the reported shooting.

"The situation here is calm and seems to be under control [of security forces]. Traffic is dense, officials are going to work, cabs are running normally and people are going about their business," Mahamadou said.

Violence escalated after elections

Attacks by militants have grown since Bazoum's victory in February presidential election.

Niger's former president, Ousmane, has deemed the election fraudulent after he lost in the runoff against Bazoum.

Ousmane served as president for three years until a military coup toppled him in 1996. He has since tried to regain power, most recently through the February election.

Niger has had four coups since its independence from France in 1960.

The spread of deadly extremist violence has long plagued the West African country, with jihadi insurgencies spilled over from Mali and Nigeria.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

fb/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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