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Junta's No. 2 arrested for plotting to 'eliminate' head of regime

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Niger's former second-in-command junta leader, Colonel Abdoulaye Badie, and another officer are being held for "attempting to destabilise the regime" and "eliminate" junta chief General Salou Djibo, a security source said Saturday.


AFP - The former number two of Niger's ruling junta, Colonel Abdoulaye Badie, and another officer are being held for plotting to destabilise the regime, including eliminating the country's leader, a security source said Saturday.

Badie and Lieutenant Colonel Abdou Sidikou were arrested Friday after several weeks of surveillance and investigations, the source, who refused to be identified, said.

"They are accused of attempting to destabilise the regime, a plot they had been hatching for three months," he said. "The project was to go so far as to eliminate" the head of the junta, General Salou Djibo.

The source said the aim was to delay the transition to civilian rule, adding that there had been long-running splits within the junta on the length of this period.

"President Djibo will make a speech to the nation next week to explain the situation and calm feelings," the source said.

Family members told AFP earlier that Badie was arrested around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT) on Friday at his home. A military source said he and Sidikou were being interrogated at the gendarmerie headquarters in Niamey.

Badie had been permanent secretary to Salou Djibo, leader of the coup that overthrew Niger's civilian president Mamadou Tandja in February, before the junta leader abolished the post last weekend.

Rumours of a coup have swirled in Niamey over the past few weeks. For several days, the military presence in the capital and its suburbs has been stepped up, with larger patrols, particularly at night, AFP journalists noted.

The junta has pledged to hand power to a democratically-elected civilian government. The transitional process is due to kick off on October 31 and culminate with a presidential election on January 31, 2011.

The planned handover is set for April 6, 2011, when the new president is due to be sworn in.

A member of the ruling junta, colonel Amadou Diallo, was removed Friday from his post as equipment minister, according to an official communique read on national radio.

No reasons were given for the removal, which came a week after Diallo was sacked from his job as military tribunal prosecutor.

Tandja was ousted by the military after he took a series of steps to prolong his term in office beyond the end of his elected mandate, which was in December last year.

The junta won widespread public support in February when it pledged to turn the west African country, which ranks last on the Human Development Index, into a beacon of "good democracy and governance".

The junta has thus far refused to release Tandja, whom it is holding in a villa within the presidential compound.

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