Soldiers in Niger announced a coup on national TV, adding that President Mohamed Bazoum was being held hostage with his wife at his residence in the capital Niamey after negotiations with the head of the presidential guard stalled.
Soldiers from the presidential guard in the West African nation reportedly barricaded Bazoum in his presidential palace on Wednesday, reports Xinhua news agency.
In the TV announcement on Wednesday, Col Maj Amadou Abdramane, alongside nine other uniformed soldiers behind him, said: "We, the defence and security forces... have decided to put an end to the regime you know. This follows the continuing deterioration of the security situation, and poor economic and social governance."
He also said they had dissolved the constitution, suspended all institutions and closed the nation's borders, adding that the heads of Ministries would take care of day-to-day business, the BBC reported.
"All external partners are asked not to interfere... Land and air borders are closed until the situation has stabilised," Col Maj Abdramane said, adding that a night curfew has been imposed from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice.
He said the soldiers were acting for the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).
Meanwhile, Niger’s presidential complex is currently sealed off.
A statement on the presidency’s social media channels said that Bazoum is “doing well” and the army and national guard were “ready to attack the elements of the GP (Presidential Guard) involved in this fit of anger if they do not return to their better senses”, CNN reported.
The country’s Interior Minister, Hamadou Souley, was also arrested by the presidential guard on Wednesday morning local time and is being held along with Bazoum.
Hundreds of protesters later gathered in Niamey in support of Bazoum.
Presidential guards to fired “warning shots” to block their advance when protesters were about 300 meters from the presidential palace, CNN reported.
Up to 400 protesters were seen later on Wednesday, some holding photos of Bazoum and signs saying: “No to the destabilisation of the republic’s institutions.”
After the soldiers' TV announcement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of President Bazoum, the BBC reported.
He told a news conference in New Zealand that "what it clearly constitutes is an effort to seize power by force and to disrupt the constitution".
The situation has triggered widespread condemnation.
In a short statement released by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the coup attempt.
"The Secretary-General is following closely the situation in Niger. He condemns in the strongest terms any effort to seize power by force and to undermine democratic governance, peace and stability in Niger," according to the statement.
The UN chief "calls on all actors involved to exercise restraint and to ensure the protection of constitutional order. The UN stands by the Government and the people of Niger".
While the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned “any attempt to destabilise democracy and threaten the stability of Niger", the French Foreign Minister said it “is closely monitoring the development of the situation”.
White House officials said they “strongly condemn any effort to detain or subvert the functioning of Niger’s democratically elected government”.
Niger's neighboring nations of Mali and Burkina Faso have both experienced military coups in the past few years, in the wake of growing jihadi insurgencies which have destabilised the entire region.
Bazoum was elected in 2021 and Niger has experienced four coups since independence from France in 1960.