Niger president held by troops-military sources

Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:24pm GMT

By Abdoulaye Massalatchi

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's President Mamadou Tandja was detained by mutinous troops on Thursday after a coup in the west African uranium exporter that left at least three soldiers dead, military sources said.

Three Nigerien military sources said the coup was led by a soldier named Major Adamou Harouna.

"The coup leader has succeeded. It is being led by Major Adamou Harouna," one source said. The president and the ministers are being detained not far from the presidential palace, the sources added.

Earlier in the day plumes of smoke were seen rising from the palace after soldiers attacked the building where Tandja was holding a meeting, sparking several hours of gunfire in the capital Niamey.

Political tensions have been high in Niger in recent months over Tandja's extension of his rule, which drew widespread criticism and international sanctions.

State radio, which had been broadcasting normally, began playing military music.

Witnesses said machine gun and heavy weapons fire erupted in the city at around 1200 GMT. Four hours later most shooting had eased.

Hospital sources said at least three soldiers were killed in the clashes. Earlier, a Reuters witness saw five injured soldiers at a hospital.   Continued...

<p>Niger's President Mamadou Tandja attends the plenary session of the Africa-South America Summit in Margarita Island September 27, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins</p>
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