France to withdraw troops from Niger after coup, says Macron

France's ambassador in the country is also being pulled out

French President Emmanuel Macron. AFP
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French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he is ending the country's military co-operation with Niger after the coup there in July, and withdrawing 1,500 troops given the task of battling rebels in the Sahel region.

The troops will be pulled out by the end of the year, in a move that deals a blow to France's counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel and its influence in the region.

Mr Macron said France, the former colonial power in Niger, would "not be held hostage by the putschists" who he has refused to recognise as the legitimate authority in the country.

"We will consult with the putschists because we want things to happen calmly," he told France's TF1 and France 2 TV stations.

France's ambassador was also being pulled out and would arrive back in the country in the next few hours, Mr Macron said.

French influence over its former colonies has waned in West Africa in recent years, just as popular vitriol has grown.

Its forces have been kicked out of neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso since coups in those countries, reducing its role in a region-wide fight against deadly Islamist insurgencies.

Niger evacuation flights land in Europe - in pictures

Until the coup, Niger had remained a key security partner of France and the US, which have used it as a base to fight an insurgency in West and Central Africa's wider Sahel region.

France's military base in Niger's capital, Niamey, had become the centre of anti-French protests since the July 26 coup.

Groups have regularly gathered on the street outside to call for the departure of troops stationed in the capital.

On one Saturday this month, tens of thousands rallied against France, slitting the throat of a goat dressed in French colours and carrying coffins draped in French flags.

At the same event, some people carried pro-Russian signs.

Mr Macron said he still regarded democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, currently held prisoner by the coup leaders, as the country's legitimate leader and had informed him of his decision.

Updated: September 25, 2023, 4:35 AM