Niger's military leadership on Thursday backed a group of soldiers who claim to have seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum.
"All foreign military intervention of whatever kind poses the risk of disastrous and uncontrollable consequences for our population and the chaos of our country," a statement from the armed forces said on social media.
Although Bazoum remains defiant, the military's backing of the Putschists means it will be difficult for him regain control.
Earlier, Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum had been removed from power, according to reports from the AFP and Reuters news agencies, citing a statement from a group of soldiers made on national television.
"We, the defense and security forces... have decided to put an end to the regime" of President Bazoum, said Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, flanked by nine other uniformed soldiers in the address.
Reading from a statement, the soldiers said, "The country's borders are closed and a nationwide curfew declared."
On Wednesday, the group had blocked off the presidential palace in the Nigerien capital, Niamey.
According to comments made officially and unofficially from President Mohamed Bazoum's office, a contingent of the presidential guard had been trying to detain Bazoum inside the residence.
What we know so far
Security sources in the president's office spoke to several news agencies, with one telling AFP that elite troops had suffered a "fit of temper" and that "talks" were underway looking to defuse the situation.
Soon after, Niger's presidency issued a pair of tweets, the first of which it soon deleted.
The second said that elements of the presidential guard were in effective revolt but that the bulk of the armed forces remained loyal.
"The president of the republic and his family are doing well," the publication that remained online said. "The army and the national guard are ready to attack the elements of the GP [presidential guard] involved in this fit of temper if they do not return to better feelings."
A later tweet, published at around 0500 GMT, said: "The hard-won gains will be safeguarded. All democracy- and freedom-loving Nigeriens will see to it."
The country's Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou called on all "democrats and patriots" to make this "perilous adventure" a failure.
He told France24 that Niger's "legal and legitimate power" was the one vested in its president.
He also added that the detained president was in "good health."
An AFP journalist in Niamey reported that the area around the presidential complex was sealed off on Wednesday, but also reported no abnormal signs of military activity or sounds of gunfire in the area. Traffic appeared normal.
Foreign leaders call for president's release
The West African ECOWAS group of countries, currently chaired by Nigeria, issued a communique soon after the news broke saying it reacted with "shock and consternation" to the news of an "attempted coup d'Etat."
"ECOWAS condemns in the strongest possible terms the attempt to seize power by force and calls on the coup plotters to free the democratically elected President of the Republic immediately and without any condition," the statement, signed by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, said.
"ECOWAS and the international community will hold all those involved in the plot responsible for the security and safety of the President, his family, members of the government and the general public."
The United States also condemned the developments and called for Bazoum's release.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support for Bazoum and said he had spoken to him after his department said earlier that it had been "gravely concerned about the developments in Niger."
"The US condemns efforts to subvert Niger’s constitutional order by force, and underscores that our partnership depends on the continuation of democratic governance," Blinken said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote in French that he was "very preoccupied by the events underway in Niamey."
"The EU condemns all attempts to destabilize the democracy and threaten the stability of Niger," he said, adding the EU also associated itself with ECOWAS' first response to the matter.
A spokeswoman for Germany's Foreign Ministry told a press briefing on Wednesday that "the situation on site is still very unclear."
"We are in contact both with our embassy there and also with international partners," she said. "And if it is necessary, we will of course also take appropriate steps."
A Defense Ministry spokesman in Berlin similarly said it was too early to evaluate the situation.
He said the German troops in Niger as part of an international mission helping fight Islamist rebels were "in safety for now," and that what came next would have be evaluated in the coming days.
German news outlet DPA reported that the airspace closure over Niger has meant there are no more flights to the Bundeswehr base in Niamey, where 100 German troops are employed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned "in the strongest terms any effort to seize power by force and to undermine democratic governance, peace and stability," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Guterres called on "all actors involved to exercise restraint and to ensure the protection of constitutional order."
Coups common in Sahel, Niger struggling with violence near the capital
And in Niger itself, a failed coup attempt in 2021 two days before Bazoum's inauguration sought to stop him from taking office.
All three countries are struggling to contain an Islamist uprising in their shared border area, with the fighting not far from Niger's capital, Niamey.
Niger is also fighting insurgents in its southeastern area bordering Nigeria.
Past coup leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso, and those who tried and failed in Niger in 2021, said poor progress against militants was a motivation for their bids to seize power.
kb, msh/sri (AFP, Reuters)