Niger coup: 15 Belgians evacuated on French flights

The first French evacuation flights from Niger carried 15 Belgian nationals and entitled persons, Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib announced on Wednesday.

France has started evacuating people from Niger after a military coup sparked unrest in the country. Niger's democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, was overthrown by the military last week and General Abdourahamane Tchiani declared himself the new leader.

A first flight from Niamey landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris at around 1.30 on Wednesday morning. The plane carried 262 passengers, including 12 babies. 

Among them were not only French nationals but also Belgian, Nigerien, Portuguese, Ethiopian and Lebanese, French Foreign minister Catherine Colonna said earlier. A second flight carrying French, Belgian, Nigerien, German, Canadian, American, Austrian and Indian nationals was due to land later in the night, Colonna said.

A total of 15 Belgians and entitled persons were on the French flights, Lahbib said on Twitter on Wednesday morning. "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my colleague Catherine Colonna and her services, with whom we remain in close consultation. The safety of our fellow citizens is our main concern," Lahbib said.

Around 1,200 French nationals are on consular lists in Niger. According to the authorities, around 600 have expressed a wish to return to France. Belgium is aware of around 110 of its nationals being in Niger. 

The Belgian Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs had previously announced that Belgian nationals and "stakeholders" who had expressed a wish to leave Niger would be evacuated by French planes.

People arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on August 2 after being evacuated from Niger © LOU BENOIST / AFP

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