The Niger junta has instructed its armed forces to be on the highest level of alert, attributing the decision to an escalated threat of potential attacks, according to an internal document issued by the country’s defense chief on Friday, confirmed as genuine by a security source.
The widely circulated document, which surfaced online on Saturday, indicated that the directive to maintain a state of maximum alert was intended to enable the armed forces to respond effectively to any potential attacks and to prevent unexpected developments.
“Threats of aggression to the national territory are increasingly being felt,” it said.
The primary West African bloc, ECOWAS, has been engaged in negotiations with the leaders of the July 26 coup; however, it has also stated its readiness to deploy military forces for the reinstatement of constitutional order should diplomatic endeavors prove ineffective.
On Friday, the bloc played down the mentioned threat and asserted its strong commitment to prioritize diplomatic initiatives. However, it also acknowledged that intervention remained a viable option on the table.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state unequivocally that ECOWAS has neither declared war on the people of Niger, nor is there a plan, as it is being purported, to invade the country,” ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray told reporters.
The bloc’s decision in early August to activate a standby force for potential intervention has sparked concerns about an escalation that might exacerbate the already fragile situation in the insurgency-ridden Sahel region.