Niger security forces arrested ten soldiers for trying to overthrow the government last month, President Mahamadou Issoufou said late in his first public mention of the alleged attempted coup.
The West African state, a top uranium supplier to France’s nuclear industry and also one of the world’s poorest countries, has suffered three military overthrows in a decade, including one last year that toppled former president Mamadou Tandja.
“Ten of those who had sought to undermine the security of the state on the night of July 12 to 13 are under arrest and another remains on the loose,” Issoufou said in a televised address, meant to mark the nation’s 51st anniversary since declaring independence from France, Reuters reports.
He said the group, which he identified only as members of the military, had a “dream of being head of state just long enough to get their hands on the public finances.” He did not give details of the foiled plot.
Military sources told Reuters that the men arrested included members of the junta that had toppled Tandja in February 2010 and had paved the way to the elections which brought Issoufou to power this year.
Insecurity, including a threat from al Qaeda-linked operatives in Niger’s north, has hampered investment in the state’s rich energy and mining resources.
The governor of Niger’s Agadez region, in the uranium-rich north, said in a separate statement late on Tuesday that security in the area was gradually improving and that he had lifted a military escort requirement for public travel on most roads.
Five French nationals were kidnapped in Niger’s uranium mining zone by al Qaeda-linked gunmen in September 2010, four of whom are believed to still be hostage somewhere in the desert of neighbouring Mali.