Niger coup could complicate UN peacekeepers withdrawal from Mali

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A coup in Niger could have a “negative impact” on the United Nations withdrawing its decade-long peacekeeping operation in neighboring Mali, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

The U.N. Security Council last month ended the mission in Mali after the West African country’s military junta abruptly asked the 13,000-strong force to leave – a move the United States said was engineered by Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.

Chad is the largest contributor to the mission with some 1,400 troops in Mali, but a coup in Niger on Wednesday could now make it difficult for them to return home. The Security Council has asked the peacekeeping mission to aim to complete its withdrawal by the end of this year.

“It will have a negative impact, if this continues, on our drawdown,” Dujurric said when asked about the coup in Niger.

Supporters of a coup in Niger ransacked and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party in the capital Niamey on Thursday after the army command declared its backing for the takeover carried out by soldiers of the presidential guard.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded that those detaining Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum release him “immediately and unconditionally.”

“Stop obstructing the democratic governance of the country and respect the rule of law,” Guterres said to reporters on Thursday. Guterres spoke with Bazoum on Wednesday and has condemned the effort to seize power by force.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

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