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October 15, 2010

Two Top Officials in Niger's Military Government Arrested Over Alleged Coup Plot

by Scott Stearns

The former deputy leader of Niger's military government and another top commander have been arrested in the capital, Niamey. Security sources say they are being detained on allegations of trying to overthrow the
military government.

Colonel Abdoulaye Badie was finally arrested after nearly one week of speculation about his role in the military government that took power in February.

Last Sunday, Niger's top military leader, General Salou Djibo, signed a decree abolishing Badie's post as permanent secretary to the junta. The decree did not state why the position was abolished.

Overnight military patrols in the capital were noticeably increased. There were then reports both Wednesday and Thursday that Badie had been arrested and was being held at Niamey's military headquarters.

But the colonel told VOA's French to Africa Service Friday that he was at home and the accounts of his arrest were not true.

Later Friday, Badie and another top commander, Colonel Abdou Sidikou were arrested in what security sources say is part of an investigation into an alleged plot against the state.

Regional diplomats say there have been concerns the Badie and Sidikou are among a group of officers who are less sure about returning Niger to civilian rule so quickly after the coup that toppled President Mamadou Tandja.

Niger Saturday began a two-week campaign toward a referendum on a new constitution. If approved on October 31st, it would lead to presidential elections in January.

Voters in Niger are widely expected to turn out in support of the new constitution, which establishes a less powerful chief executive than the constitution passed just last August in a controversial referendum that gave President Tandja three more years in power.

President Tandja's party opposes this new constitution because it believes Niger needs a strong central authority. The so-called semi-presidential system to be put before voters this month was drawn up by a consultative council of civil society groups, business leaders, and the military.