Niger junta names leader

A junta that seized power in a coup in Niger named a platoon commander as its leader yesterday, hours after soldiers announced on state television that their group was in charge of the uranium-rich country.

The former colonial ruler, France, and the African Union both condemned the coup. Armed soldiers stormed the presidential palace on Thursday afternoon and abducted President Mamadou Tandja as he chaired a cabinet meeting. The whereabouts of Mr Tandja, a 71-year-old former army officer, remained unknown.

The junta, which calls itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, declared it was being led by Colonel Salou Djibo, commander of a platoon based near the capital. It also announced the reopening of the country's borders and the lifting of a curfew. The junta has said it wants to turn Niger into "an example of democracy and of good governance". A diplomat in the region described the coup's leaders as being part of an army faction disillusioned with President Tandja for violating his constitutionally mandated term limit. The African Union's senior executive, Jean Ping, condemned the coup and said that the AU "demands a quick return to constitutional order".