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Heavy gunfire near Niger presidential palace in attempted coup, days before President-elect’s inauguration

AFP via Getty Images

Heavy gunfire was heard outside Niger’s presidential palace early Wednesday morning in an attempted coup, an African diplomatic source has told CNN — just two days before power is to change hands.

The diplomatic source told CNN the situation is apparently under control after an hour of heavy shelling near the presidency. Both outgoing and incoming presidents are safe, the source said, adding they could not confirm any arrests.

The incident comes two days before the swearing in of President-elect Mohamed Bazoum. The former interior minister succeeds President Mahamadou Issoufou, who stepped down after a decade in power.

Asked to confirm it was an attempted putsch, the diplomatic source said: “Yes it’s the army. Which is predominately from the west of the country, which is the heartland of the opposition to Bazoum.”

CNN is attempting to reach the Army and Presidency for comment.

The US Embassy in Niger’s capital Niamey said it will be closed on Wednesday and consular services suspended “due to gunshots heard near our neighborhood.”

“The security situation throughout Niger remains fluid in the post-election period with the possibility of unrest and/or intercommunal clashes around the country. There may be a corresponding increase in police presence and traffic delays on major roads. Please exercise caution,” the embassy said on its website.

It encouraged all personnel to stay at home until further notice.

The west African nation is in the midst of a security crisis, with a wave of deadly attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State near its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso in recent months.

Last week UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned “another heinous attack” by unidentified gunmen against civilians in the Tahoua region of the Republic of Niger.

The attack on March 21, reportedly killed at least 137 people, the UN said. It was the second deadly attacks against civilians in recent weeks. At least 58 people including six children were killed in an attack on a market.

Guterres called on countries in the Sahel region to continue their efforts “to address these serious threats to security and stability in the sub-region and beyond”.

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