US orders partial evacuation of embassy in Niger

US State DepartmentFile photo

The United States on Wednesday ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy in Niger, the State Department said, a week after the fragile nation was rocked by a coup.

"On August 2, 2023, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency US government employees and eligible family members from Embassy Niamey," an updated US travel advisory for Niger said.

The advisory warned US citizens "not to travel to Niger," but stopped short of advising all Americans to leave the landlocked West African country. It had previously told US citizens to "reconsider travel."

"The US Embassy in Niamey has temporarily reduced its personnel, suspended routine services, and is only able to provide emergency assistance to US citizens in Niger," the advisory added.

The United States has strongly condemned the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum but, unlike France and other European countries, did not order mass evacuations or suspend its aid to Niger, which is worth several hundred million dollars.

It has suspended activities such as training with Niamey's forces.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Bazoum for the second time in two days on Wednesday, the State Department said in a statement.

"We reiterate that the safety and security of President Bazoum and his family are paramount," it added.

State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller had said in a statement earlier that the United States remains "diplomatically engaged at the highest levels."

He added that the United States "rejects all efforts to overturn Niger's constitutional order, and stands with the people of Niger ... in support of democratic governance and respect for the rule of law and human rights."

The White House later announced that a senior US official, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, had met Wednesday with Nigeria's president to "discuss regional security issues" and "constructively engage on next steps to preserve Niger's hard-earned democracy."

Nigerian president Bola Tinubu is the current chair of the ECOWAS West African regional bloc, which has threatened the possible "use of force" to restore constitutional order in Niger.

Miller earlier told a State Department briefing that there was no indication of threats targeting Americans in Niger or American facilities such as the embassy, saying that the situation in Niamey was "calm" and "fluid."

About 1,000 US troops are stationed in Niger, where they were helping Bazoum combat a regional Islamist insurgency.

Bazoum was overthrown on July 26 when members of his own guard detained him at the presidency.