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French Foreign Minister: The first evacuation plane from Niger left Niamey airport

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The French Foreign Minister announced today, Tuesday, that the first evacuation plane from Niger had left Niamey airport, according to Agence France-Presse news.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, the first flight departed from Niger with 262 people on board, as France plans to evacuate its French and European citizens after supporters of last week’s coup attacked its embassy in Niamey.

France began evacuating its citizens from Niger on Tuesday, after a coup there last week toppled the country’s pro-Western leader.

The ministry said in a statement that the decision to expel the citizens came as a result of the attacks on the French embassy in Niamey and the closure of Niger’s airspace, making regular departures impossible.

Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that the first flight to evacuate French nationals took off with 262 people, including 12 infants, on board.

France has sent three planes to the capital, Niamey, to bring back French and European citizens who want to leave the coastal nation six days after the president was ousted by elite forces. Colonna said that “almost all the passengers are citizens” as well as “some European citizens”. The flight will land at Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport overnight.

France said earlier on Tuesday it was preparing an evacuation “in the face of the deteriorating security situation in Niamey”, but gave no time frame. She added that the evacuations “will take place very soon in a very limited period of time”.

There are an estimated 600 French nationals in Niger, not to mention tourists visiting or French residents currently out of the country. “In the face of the deteriorating security situation in Niamey and taking advantage of the relative calm in Niamey, an air evacuation operation is being prepared,” the embassy said in a message sent to French citizens.

The German ministry urged “all German citizens” to accept the French offer of evacuation. It said fewer than 100 German civilians were believed to be in Niger. The Italian government said it was putting together “a special flight for those [الإيطاليين] who want to leave the country,” she said, adding that this is “not an evacuation.” She said there are about 90 Italians in Niamey, out of less than 500 across the country.

The White House said on Tuesday that the United States will not join European allies in evacuating its citizens from Niger for now, citing no immediate danger in the aftermath of the coup. About 1,000 US troops are stationed in the landlocked African country, where they have been helping ousted President Mohamed Bazoum fight a regional Islamist insurgency.

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