The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Niger junta told Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland that they would kill deposed President Mohamed Bazoum if neighboring countries launched a military intervention to reinstate him.
After meeting with junta leaders in Niger on Monday, Nuland did not mention the threat or discuss the possibility of military intervention. But she described the talks as “extremely frank and at times quite difficult” and sounded doubtful that the junta would relinquish power or release Bazoum.
AP cited an unnamed Western military official who said the junta made the threat to Nuland. The report said that a US official confirmed the account.
The US has backed threats from ECOWAS, a bloc of West African nations, to intervene militarily if Bazoum is not reinstated.
ECOWAS held a summit in Nigeria on Thursday and ordered the activation of a reserve force to “restore constitutional order in the republic of Niger,” but it’s not clear if intervention is imminent. Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, the ECOWAS chair, also said the use of force is a “last resort.”
A military intervention could spark a major regional war as Mali and Burkina Faso have warned they would support the Niger junta. The US and France would likely be involved as they each have over 1,000 troops in Niger.