First planes carrying evacuees from Niger land in Paris and Rome

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The first military planes carrying mostly European nationals evacuated from Niger after a coup have landed in Paris and Rome, with France and other countries expected to fly more of their citizens out of the West African country.

A military junta overthrew Niger’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum and his government on July 26 in the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa.

With the risk of conflict escalating, France, the former colonial power, Italy and Spain said they would evacuate citizens by air.

The first French flight left Niger on Tuesday evening and landed in Paris early on Wednesday with 262 people on board, according to Reuters journalists there.

“Things could have turned ugly but it still is nice to be back here,” a French evacuee who gave his name as Charles told Reuters TV.

“We will see how things evolve over there in the coming days and weeks. For us, who care about it quite a lot, we will follow this closely.”

An Italian military plane carrying 87 evacuees from Niger arrived in Rome early on Wednesday, according to Reuters journalists at the airport.

Some 36 Italians, as well as 21 United States citizens, four Bulgarians, two Austrians and one citizen each from Britain, Niger, Hungary, Senegal, and Nigeria were on the plane, as well as military personnel.

France is expected to operate more evacuation flights on Wednesday.

The recent coups in the region have come amid a wave of vitriol aimed at former colonial power France that resulted in its troops having to withdraw from Mali and Burkina Faso this year and last.

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Many of those soldiers are stationed in Niger.

The US, Germany and Italy also have troops in Niger on counter-insurgency and training missions.

There has been no announcement of troops being evacuated.

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