France has started to evacuate hundreds of EU citizens from Niger after West African leaders threatened military action to oust coup leaders in the capital, Niamey. Last week, the presidential guard took President Bazoum prisoner and dissolved the constitution. Bazoum is a key western ally and West African democracies – chief among them Nigeria – fear his arrest will undermine an increasingly desperate fight to contain the world’s fastest-spreading jihadist insurgency, which has already brought Burkina Faso and Mali to their knees. The evacuation could be the precursor to military action, getting citizens out of the way of potential reprisal attacks. Paris has a long history of intervening in its former African colonies to back up “notre homme”. And the putschists have accused the ousted government of authorising a foreign intervention. France already has the capacity for a limited operation: some 1,500 soldiers based in Niger and allied Chadian shock troops could fly across the border from N’djamena.
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