Coup leaders say France has sent troops and equipment to Senegal, Ivory Coast and Benin as “part of preparations for an aggression against Niger.”
Niger’s military has accused France of amassing troops and equipment in several West African countries with the intention of launching a “military intervention” against Niamey.
Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a spokesman for Niger’s coup leaders, made the claim on national television late Saturday.
He said France continues to deploy its armed forces in member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as “part of the preparations for an aggression against Niger, which it is planning in collaboration with this community organization.”
French “military cargo planes have made it possible to unload large quantities of war material and equipment in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Benin, to name a few,” he said.
The claim came as tensions increased between Niger and France – the former colonial power – in the wake of a military coup on July 26.
Paris has backed ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and refused to respond to Niger’s demands to remove its troops and envoy from the Sahel state.
Niger is also locked in a standoff with the ECOWAS bloc, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to power fails.
In Niamey, meanwhile, thousands of people are holding almost daily demonstrations around a military base housing French soldiers to demand their departure. France has around 1,500 soldiers in the country as part of a wider fight against al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) linked groups.
A source at the French Defense Ministry told the AFP news agency on Tuesday that Paris was in talks with the military regime about withdrawing “elements” from its presence in Niger.
The comments appeared to confirm remarks by military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, who said discussions were underway about a “very quick” departure of French troops.
Zeine also said his government wanted to “maintain cooperation with a country with which we have shared a lot” and added that he was also “hopeful” to reach an agreement with ECOWAS.
The United States, which has about 1,100 troops in Niger, has begun moving its troops from Niamey to the central city of Agadez “out of an abundance of caution,” the US Defense Department said this week.