By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Ousted President Mohamed Bazoum’s attempt to escape from custody on Thursday was foiled by the military rulers, the regime’s spokesman, Amadou Abdramane, said on state television.
“At around three in the morning, the ousted president Mohamed Bazoum and his family, his two cooks, and two security elements tried to escape from his place of detention,” Abdramane said.
The escape bid failed, and “the main actors and some of the accomplices” were arrested, he added in the broadcast late Thursday.
The escape plan involved Bazoum who was ousted in July at first getting to a hideout on the outskirts of the capital, Niamey, said Abdramane.
They had then planned to fly out on helicopters “belonging to a foreign power” towards Nigeria, he added, denouncing Bazoum’s “irresponsible attitude”.
Since he was toppled by the military on July 26, Bazoum has refused to resign.
Until now, he had been held at his residence in the heart of the presidential palace, along with his wife Haziza and son Salem.
In September, Bazoum’s lawyers said he filed a legal case with a court of the Economic Community of West African States against those who deposed him.
They also said they were taking his case to the UN Human Rights Council.
The army officers who overthrew Bazoum cited as justification the deteriorating security situation in the country because of jihadist attacks.
Niger is battling two jihadist insurgencies: a spillover in its southeast from a long-running conflict in neighbouring Nigeria; and an offensive in the west by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.
On Thursday, the first group of French soldiers, ordered out of Niger by its post-coup military rulers, arrived by road in N’Djamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad.
The convoy “has arrived without any particular problems” in N’Djamena after 10 days on the road and in coordination with Nigerien forces, army spokesman Pierre Gaudilliere told AFP.
The troops will depart by air from Chad to France, with the pullout expected to be completed by the end of December.