PARIS (AP) — France’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that a French official has been arrested in military-run Niger, and called for the junta to immediately release him.
Military officers in Niger deposed elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July and last month ordered French officials to leave the country — an order that France has refused to heed, saying that Niger’s junta is not the country’s legitimate authority.
The ministry said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Stephane Jullien, counsellor for French citizens abroad — a non-diplomatic, elected post — was arrested last Friday, and called for his “immediate release.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that France’s ambassador would stay at his post in Niger despite being asked to leave. Addressing ambassadors in August, Macron dismissed concerns that standing up to the junta could be dangerous.
The arrest of a French official was sure to further raise already high tensions between France and Niger, its former colony.
The Foreign Ministry did not elaborate on where and how Jullien was arrested or whether officials in Paris knew where he was being held. It said only that France was following the situation closely and was “fully mobilized” to assure him the protections due to anyone in another country.
France “calls immediately for his release,” the statement said.
French Ambassador Sylvain Itte was asked to leave Niger within 48 hours in a letter on Aug. 25 from the Nigerien Foreign Ministry that accused him of ignoring an invitation for a meeting with the ministry. The letter also cited “actions of the French government contrary to the interests of Niger.”
France has consistently acknowledged only the authority of Bazoum. He is still detained by the junta, which is now under sanctions by Western and regional African powers.
Nearly 1,500 French troops are based in Niger to help local forces fight Islamic extremists. However, the military cooperation has been suspended since the coup, whose leaders claimed that Bazoum’s government wasn’t doing enough to protect the country from the insurgency.
“One shouldn’t give in to the narrative used by the coup leaders that consists of saying France has become our enemy,” Macron said at the late August annual Paris gathering of the nation’s ambassadors.