First UK nationals safely out of the country, foreign minister says

Citizens of European countries are seen outside the Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, on 2 August

Some other European countries have already started evacuation flights from Niger

The first group of British nationals have safely left Niger on a French flight to Paris, the Foreign Office has said.

It gave no further details on how many Britons were on the plane but said a “very small number” remain in Niger.

Violence has broken out in the west African country following last week’s military coup.

France and Italy had already started evacuating their citizens.

The UK government had previously advised British nationals to register their whereabouts and stay indoors.

There were believed to be fewer than 100 British nationals in Niger.

The first to be evacuated were those who had requested to leave Niger and were able to make their way to the airport in time for this flight.

A statement from the Foreign Office said: “The UK’s ambassador and a core team remain in Niger to support the very small number of British nationals who are still there. We are grateful to the French for their help in this evacuation.”

German citizens in Niger – who are also thought to number fewer than 100 – have been urged to leave the country aboard planes organised by France, while the Spanish government said it was preparing to evacuate around 70 of its citizens.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who is currently in Nigeria as part of a three-country tour of Africa, said earlier on Wednesday: “The UK government’s priority remains the safety of British nationals and helping them get out of the country to safety.”

The coup has prompted demonstrations against France, the former colonial power in Niger, with the French embassy coming under attack.

Early on Wednesday 262 people arrived in Paris from Niger, while Italy has also organised a flight, which arrived in Rome with 87 evacuees.

The plane was carrying 36 Italians, 21 Americans and one Briton, according to Reuters news agency.

Niger, which is rich in uranium, has been a key Western ally in the fight against jihadist extremism in the Sahel region. Both France and the US have military bases there.

President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s first democratically elected leader since the country’s independence in 1960, was detained by his presidential guards last week.

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has said it would use force unless the president was released and reinstated within a week.

But military groups in neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, also former French colonies, warned any forcible intervention would be seen as a declaration of war.

There are concerns Niger’s new leadership could now move away from its Western allies and closer to Russia, like Burkina Faso and Mali, which have both pivoted towards Moscow since their own military coups.

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