March 31 (UPI) — Authorities in Niger fended off armed attackers at the presidential palace early Wednesday, which government officials described as an attempted coup by the armed forces.
Unnamed sources told BBC News that the presidential guard thwarted the attack two days before President-elect Mohamed Bazoum was set to be sworn into office. It will be the first democratic transfer of power in the country since 1960.
A diplomatic source told CNN both Bazoum and President Mahamadou Issoufou were uninjured in the attack.
“The government condemns this coward and backwards act that had the intention to attack the democracy and rule of law that our state has embarked upon as we have seen during these recent elections, which were democratic, free and fair and lauded as such by the international community,” the CNN source said.
The diplomat said the army was involved in the attack, which sought to prevent the swearing-in of Bazoum. Residents reported hearing shelling and gunfire for about an hour in the capital of Niamey.
Though many of the attackers fled the scene, CNN reported authorities arrested multiple people for their involvement.
A representative for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he’s “following with great concern the unfolding developments in the country” and “urges all involved to desist from any form of incitement that threatens democratic consolidation and the stability of the country.”
The United Nations considers the west African country to be the world’s poorest nation. It’s beset by multiple security concerns linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State, and along its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.