U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken says Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is “taking advantage” of instability in Niger.
A junta has been in charge of the nation since President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown over two weeks ago.
There have been reports insinuating that Wagner, which is known to be present in nearby Mali, was requested for assistance by the coup leaders.
According to Mr. Blinken, neither Russia nor Wagner were responsible for the coup in Niger.
He told the BBC’s Focus on Africa show that the U.S. was concerned about the group “possibly manifesting itself” in some Sahel areas.
“I think what happened, and what continues to happen in Niger was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, but… they tried to take advantage of it.
“Every single place that this Wagner group has gone, death, destruction and exploitation have followed,” said Mr Blinken.
“Insecurity has gone up, not down”.
He added that there was a “repeat of what’s happened in other countries, where they brought nothing but bad things in their wake”.
Wagner is thought to have thousands of fighters in nations like the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, where it has profitable business interests but also strengthens Russia’s political and economic ties.
The fighters of the organisation have been charged with widespread violations of human rights in various African nations.
Despite this, there have been rumors that Wagner has been contacted by the Niger army in order to help the country prepare for any military involvement.
The leaders of the junta in Niger were given till Sunday to disband and reinstate President Bazoum by the 15-nation trading bloc ECOWAS.
This deadline was ignored and Ecowas is due to hold a meeting on Thursday to decide on what to do next.
On Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held what she described as “difficult and frank” talks with the coup leaders, whom she said understood the risks of working with the mercenaries.
Mr Bazoum, who is currently in captivity, has also spoken of his concerns about Wagner’s influence in Africa.