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

The Foreign Office has announced that the first group of British nationals has safely left Niger on a French flight to Paris. However, the office did not disclose the exact number of Britons on the

plane, but assured that a "very small number" still remain in Niger.

Following last week's military coup, violence has erupted in the West African country, prompting France and Italy to start evacuating their citizens.

The UK government had previously advised British nationals to register their whereabouts and stay indoors. It is estimated that there were fewer than 100 British nationals in Niger.

Those evacuated first were individuals who had requested to leave Niger and managed to reach the airport on time for the flight.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who is currently in Nigeria as part of a three-country tour of Africa, stated, "The UK government's priority remains the safety of British nationals and helping them get out of the country to safety."

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

A total of 262 people arrived in Paris from Niger, and Italy has organized a flight that brought 87 evacuees to Rome, including 36 Italians, 21 Americans, and one Briton, according to Reuters.

Niger, a country rich in uranium, has been an important Western ally in the fight against jihadist extremism in the Sahel region, with both France and the US having military bases there.

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

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has warned of the use of force unless the president is released and reinstated within a week. However, military groups in neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have warned that any forcible intervention would be seen as a declaration of war.

There are concerns that Niger's new leadership may now move away from its Western allies and closer to Russia, similar to Burkina Faso and Mali, which have both aligned with Moscow since their own military coups.

The evacuation flight comes three months after airlifts were organized out of Sudan following fighting between warring factions. A negotiated, short-term ceasefire allowed UK evacuation flights to take off from an airstrip near Khartoum, and some 2,341 people were airlifted to safety on 28 UK flights as the fragile ceasefire held. Photo by NigerTZai, Wikimedia commons.

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