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Niger President: Government Foiled Coup Attempt

FILE - Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou, Nov. 12, 2015.

Niger's government has foiled an attempted coup and arrested suspects who planned to use aerial means to seize power, President Mahamadou Issoufou said in an address on national television on Thursday.

Issoufou was elected to lead the West African country in 2011, one year after a coup. Political tension is high ahead of a presidential election set for February 21. Issoufou is favorite to win but the opposition accuses his government of repression ahead of the vote.

Gendarmes arrested at least four senior military officers on Tuesday, military sources and family members of those detained said on Thursday.

Among those taken into custody were the former military chief of staff, General Souleymane Salou, and Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Haoua, head of the air force base in the capital Niamey.

"It's said they are suspected of wanting to carry out subversive activities, but nothing is clear for the moment," said a relative of General Salou.

Niger is a major uranium producer and an important Western ally in a regional fight against Islamist militants including Nigeria's Boko Haram.