Authorities in Niger have confirmed that there was a coup attempt which took place this week in the capital Niamey. Local residents woke to the sound of heavy gunfire at 3am on Wednesday that continued for about half an hour.
Gunfire was heard in the town centre, the diplomatic quarter and close to the ministry of foreign affairs and presidency, RFI Afrique reported.
The suspected coup leader, Captain Gourouza, is on the run following the incident, becoming the most wanted man in the Sahelian country following the coup attempt timed just before the swearing-in of incoming President Mohamed Bazoum.
Investigations are ongoing to identify the plotters involved in the attempt and according to several sources at least 15 soldiers have been arrested for questioning in connection with the incident.
Soldiers taken into custody admitted to acting under the orders of Gourouza, an air force officer, who sources described as having managed to traverse the city from east to west, from the airport to the presidential palace, armed to the teeth, without being spotted.
A high level security source speaking to RFI said they had anticipated the coup attempt over the past few weeks and “caught them red-handed”.
Authorities were keen to underline that the coup attempt did not interfere with the functioning of government.
Outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou presided over the swearing-in ceremony of two new members of the constitutional court on Wednesday, and bid farewell to the presidential staff.
Niger has a long history of coups and the last successful attempt took place in 2010 when rogue soldiers seized control of the presidential palace and overthrew former President Mamadou Tandja.
In 2016, four military officers were said to have admitted to planning a coup attempt, according to the authorities.
The country faces considerable security challenges given its proximity to Mali and the ongoing fight against hardline Islamists militants.