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Thousands of protesters surround French army base in Niger

Nigeriens gather near a French airbase in the capital Niamey on August 11, 2023. (AFP)

Thousands of people have surrounded a French military base in Niger, protesting against years of military intervention by the European country in the West African nation.

Protesters rallied near the army base on the outskirts of the capital Niamey on Friday, shouting, "Down with France, down with ECOWAS," a reference to the Economic Community of West African States.

Demonstrators said the regional bloc was being "manipulated by France."

They held the rally a day after the West African bloc approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger. The French Foreign Ministry said Paris "gives its full support to all the conclusions" of West African leaders.

Some protesters held Russian and Niger flags and yelled their support for the country's coup leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani. The general announced himself the leader after members of the presidential guard ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26. Bazoum is under arrest at his residence in Niamey.

France was a colonial power in West Africa until 1960. Since independence. The country has maintained trade relations and a military presence in the region. It has 1,500 soldiers in Niger. American and European soldiers are also stationed in Niger.

Niger's coup leaders scrapped defense agreements with France last week.

On July 30, France evacuated its citizens while angry protests were underway outside the embassy in Niamey.

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