Niger Arrests Officers in Coup Attempt

Niger Arrests Officers in Coup Attempt

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) -- Nine military officers involved in planning what Niger's government has said was an attempted coup have been arrested and will face a military tribunal, the country's interior minister said Sunday.

The arrests took place after a month-long surveillance operation, said Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou. The plan was foiled thanks to the loyalty of some soldiers who kept the government informed, he said.

"The officers behind this attempt will be presented before a military court," he said. "The investigation is just beginning."

The coup was planned to take place this week during celebrations of the country's independence from France, Massaoudou said. It would have also come months before national elections take place. The first round is scheduled for Feb. 21, 2016.

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou on Thursday said several arrests had been made in the army ranks and of a former chief of staff because of a coup attempt, including former chief of staff Gen. Souleymane Salou and National Guard and Army Inspector General Col. Dan Haoua.

Issoufou said they wanted to overthrow the democratically elected government and had intended to use weapons they held in Niamey instead of sending to the southern Diffa region where the army is fighting Boko Haram insurgents.

Issoufou warned a political vacuum could lead to a takeover by Islamic extremists, referring to Mail's unrest in 2012. Niger has seen extremist attacks for years, most recently by Boko Haram.

Niger has a history of strongmen seizing power by force since its independence from France in 1960.