REPORT: New Military Junta Ruling US Ally Seeks Support From Russia’s Wagner Group

(Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

John Oyewale Contributor
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The military junta now ruling the Republic of Niger reportedly requested help from Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group in the face of possible military intervention from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Associated Press (AP) reported Saturday.

Gen. Salifou Mody, one of the coup plotters who overthrew the two-year-old democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum, reportedly met with a contact from Wagner during a visit to Mali, the AP reported, citing Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior research fellow at the Soufan Center in New York. An unnamed Western military official also reportedly told the AP of similar reports.

The reported request comes against the backdrop of possible ECOWAS military intervention following a failed mediation. The Sunday deadline for the junta to restore Bazoum to power and end the seventh coup in three years across West and Central Africa has now lapsed, and the uranium- and oil-rich but also poor country has indefinitely closed its airspace. (RELATED: Pentagon Confirms US Military Will Not Assist Niger Evacuation)

Nasr also warned that Niger “had no better allies than France and the U.S.” in the fight against Islamist terrorism and that if the West vacated Niger, Wagner and jihadist groups might fill the vacuum, in an interview with FRANCE 24.

Wagner could be a shield for the junta against foreign military intervention if it is involved in the country, as its vague association with the Russian government poses a military dilemma, Nasr added, per the interview.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly hailed the coup and appeared to offer Wagner’s services to Niger, according to Reuters.

The longstanding strategic partnership between Niger and the U.S. appears shaken, as the U.S. announced Friday a pause in “certain foreign assistance programs benefiting the government of Niger” but “the provision of life-saving humanitarian and food assistance will continue.” The U.S. embassy in Niger suspended all routine services, ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible family members and raised the travel advisory to Level 4, Do Not Travel, following the July 26 coup in Niger.