- By Haruna Shehu Tangaza in Abuja & Farouk Chothia in London
- BBC news
West African leaders have threatened military action against Niger’s military junta after it seized power in a coup last week.
The leaders gave the junta seven days to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who is being held captive.
Earlier, the junta warned that it would resist any “attack plan against Niger” by regional or Western powers.
Meanwhile, hundreds of coup supporters protested outside the French embassy in the capital, Niamey.
Leaders from Ecowas, the bloc of West African nations, held emergency talks in Nigeria on Sunday to discuss the latest coup – which follows army takeovers in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.
A statement read after the summit said Ecowas had “zero tolerance” for coups.
The regional bloc would “take all necessary measures to restore constitutional order” if its demands were not met within a week.
“Such measures may include the use of force,” and military commanders must meet “immediately” to plan an intervention, the statement added.
This is the first time Ecowas has threatened military action to reverse the coups that have taken place in the region in recent years.
It most recently sanctioned military intervention in 2017, when Senegalese troops were deployed to The Gambia to force longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh from office after he refused to accept defeat in elections.
Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno has gone to Niamey on behalf of Ecowas to ask the junta to step down, Chad’s government said.
He is the first foreign leader to visit Niger since the coup, and he has met the junta’s deputy leader, Gen Salifou Mody.
It is unclear whether he will hold talks with General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guard unit who has declared himself Niger’s new ruler.
The West African leaders also announced the immediate enforcement of a no-fly zone over Niger for all commercial flights, the closure of all land borders with the country and the imposition of economic sanctions against the junta.
Ahead of their meeting, Gen Tchiani warned Ecowas and unnamed Western nations against intervening.
“We reiterate again to Ecowas or any other adventurer our firm resolve to defend our motherland,” said the statement, which was read out on television.
The coup has raised concerns that Niger, a former French colony, could turn against Russia.
The ousted president had worked closely with both regional and Western nations to fight militant Islamists in Niger.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso and Mali both moved closer to Russia after their own coups.
In Niamey, some of the protesters outside the French embassy shouted “Long live Russia”, “Long live Putin” and “Down with France”, reports the AFP news agency.
They also set fire to the walls of the embassy.
France will not tolerate any attack on its interests in Niger, and will respond in an “immediate and irreconcilable manner”, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.
Niger’s coup has been condemned by Western nations but welcomed by the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has reportedly described it as a triumph.
“What happened in Niger is nothing but the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonizers,” he was quoted as saying on a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel, although his comments have not been independently verified.
In Mali, the junta has brought in Wagner to help it fight militant Islamists.
France, the former colonial power, announced the withdrawal of its troops last year amid growing hostility from the junta.
It subsequently moved its regional military headquarters to Niger.
In June, Mali’s junta said 12,000 UN peacekeepers would also have to leave after a decade fighting Islamist militants.
The UN agreed and said the withdrawal would be completed by the end of the year.
On Saturday, France said it had suspended all development aid and budget support to Niger. The European Union and the United States have taken a similar decision.