Military Coup Topples Niger's President
Mamadou Tandja's whereabouts unclear after violent takeover
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 18, 2010 9:56 PM CST
Niger President Mamadou Tandja is seen in a 2009 photo.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Renegade soldiers in armored vehicles stormed Niger's presidential palace with a hail of gunfire in broad daylight today, kidnapping the country's strongman president, then appearing on state television to declare they staged a successful coup. The soldiers also said Niger's constitution had been suspended and all its institutions dissolved. The whereabouts of President Mamadou Tandja—who had triggered a crisis by not stepping down as scheduled—remain unclear.

Smoke rose from the white-hued multistory palace complex and the echo of machine-gunfire for at least two hours sent frightened residents running for cover, emptying the desert country's downtown boulevards at midday. A radio station reported that the soldiers burst in and neutralized the presidential guard before politely escorting Tandja outside to a waiting car which drove him toward a military camp on the outskirts of the capital.