(Al Jazeera Media Network) The new military rulers in Niger ordered the armed forces to go on maximum alert citing an increased threat of attack.
The main West African bloc ECOWAS has been trying to negotiate with the leaders of the July 26 coup, but has said it is ready to deploy troops to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.
An internal document issued by its defence chief, which was shared widely online on Saturday, said the order to be on the highest state of readiness would allow forces to respond adequately in case of any attack and “avoid a general surprise.”
“Threats of aggression to the national territory are increasingly being felt,” it said.
ECOWAS downplayed this threat and said on Friday it is “determined to bend backwards to accommodate diplomatic efforts” – although a military intervention remained one of the options on the table.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state unequivocally that ECOWAS has neither declared war on the people of Niger, nor is there a plan, as it is being purported, to invade the country,” ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray told reporters.
The bloc’s decision earlier in August to activate a so-called standby force for a possible intervention has raised fears of an escalation that could further destabilize the rebellion-ridden Sahel region.