Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is “taking benefit” of instability in Niger, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has advised the BBC.
The nation has been dominated by a junta following the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum greater than two weeks in the past.
There have been ideas the coup leaders have requested for assist from Wagner, which is known to be present in neighbouring Mali.
Mr Blinken stated he didn’t suppose Russia or Wagner instigated Niger’s coup.
Nevertheless the US was nervous concerning the group “probably manifesting itself” in components of the Sahel area, he advised the BBC’s Concentrate on Africa programme
“I feel what occurred, and what continues to occur in Niger was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, however…they tried to reap the benefits of it.”
“Each single place that this Wagner group has gone, loss of life, destruction and exploitation have adopted,” stated Mr Blinken.
“Insecurity has gone up, not down”.
He added that there was a “repeat of what is occurred in different international locations, the place they introduced nothing however dangerous issues of their wake”.
Wagner is believed to have hundreds of fighters in international locations together with the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, the place it has profitable enterprise pursuits but in addition bolsters Russia’s diplomatic and financial relations.
The group’s fighters have been accused of widespread human rights abuses in a number of African international locations.
Regardless of this, there was hypothesis Niger’s military has requested Wagner for help because the nation faces the potential for navy intervention.
Ecowas – a buying and selling bloc of 15 West African states – issued a Sunday deadline to Niger’s junta leaders to face down and restore President Bazoum.
This deadline was ignored and Ecowas is because of maintain a gathering on Thursday to resolve on what to do subsequent.
On Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held what she described as “difficult and frank” talks with the coup leaders, whom she stated understood the dangers of working with the mercenaries.
Mr Bazoum, who’s at present in captivity, has additionally spoken of his issues about Wagner’s affect in Africa.
“With an open invitation from the coup plotters and their regional allies, all the central Sahel area may fall to Russian affect by way of the Wagner Group, whose brutal terrorism has been on full show in Ukraine,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Post printed final week.
It’s at present unclear if Wagner fighters have entered the nation however the distinguished Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel Gray Zone stated on Monday that some 1,500 of its fighters had lately been despatched to Africa.
It didn’t specify the place on the continent they’d allegedly been deployed.
Wagner’s chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin has urged the junta to “give us a name” in a voice message uploaded to Telegram on Tuesday.
“We’re at all times on the aspect of the nice, on the aspect of justice, and on the aspect of those that combat for his or her sovereignty and for the rights of their individuals,” he stated.
Niger is a former French colony and the coup has led to a wave of anti-France and pro-Russian sentiment in the country – just like that skilled by neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso, which have each pivoted in the direction of Moscow since their very own coups.
The 2 international locations, that are Ecowas members, have despatched a delegation to Niger’s capital, Niamey, to reassure the coup leaders they’ll come to their defence in opposition to the opposite West African nations and their Western allies if wanted.
In the meantime, the junta has appointed the nation’s former finance minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, because the nation’s new prime minister following the coup.
Mr Zeine replaces Mahamadou Ouhoumoudou, who was in Europe through the coup.