From the blog

NIGER Coup: Blinkin Accuse Wagner Of Taking Advantage Of instability

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia’s Wagner mercenary group of “taking advantage” of instability in Niger over suggestions the coup leaders have asked for help from Wagner, which is known to be present in neighbouring Mali.

The country has been ruled by a junta following the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum nearly two weeks ago.

However, the US was worried about the group “possibly manifesting itself” in parts of the Sahel region, Blinken told the BBC.

“I think what happened, and what continues to happen in Niger was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, but… they tried to take advantage of it.

“Every single place that this Wagner group has gone, death, destruction and exploitation have followed,” said Mr Blinken.

“Insecurity has gone up, not down”.

He added that there was a “repeat of what’s happened in other countries, where they brought nothing but bad things in their wake”.

Both the US and France operate military bases in Niger as part of operations to dislodge jihadist groups operating in the wider region. Niger became the main base for French troops after they were sent out of Mali following a coup there.

Wagner is believed to have thousands of fighters in countries including the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, where it has lucrative business interests but also bolsters Russia’s diplomatic and economic relations.

The group’s fighters have been accused of widespread human rights abuses in several African countries.

Despite this, there has been speculation Niger’s army has asked Wagner for assistance as the country faces the possibility of military intervention.

On Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held what she described as “difficult and frank” talks with the coup leaders, whom she said understood the risks of working with the mercenaries.

It is currently unclear if Wagner fighters have entered the country but the prominent Wagner-affiliated Telegram Channel Grey Zone said on Monday that some 1,500 of its fighters had recently been sent to Africa but did not specify where on the continent they had allegedly been deployed.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin has urged the junta to “give us a call” in a voice message uploaded to Telegram on Tuesday.

“We are always on the side of the good, on the side of justice, and on the side of those who fight for their sovereignty and for the rights of their people,” he said.

Meanwhile, leaders of Niger’s ruling military junta say they can’t accept a high-level diplomatic visit of delegations from Ecowas, the AU and the UN who were due in the country Tuesday, because there’d be a risk to the visitors’ security.