1 of 3 | Niger's Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who led the presidential guards, sparked celebrations from some (pictured) after he declared himself leader of the country on July 28 when he seized and deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden demanded Bazoum's release. File Photo by EPA-EFE
Aug. 3 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday called on the Niger military to release its President Mohamed Bazoum as the African country celebrates its independence, saying that the coup has put democracy in jeopardy there.
Biden's statement comes a day after the State Department ordered all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their families to evacuate the U.S. Embassy there. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the order was made "out of an abundance of caution" and because of limited commercial flights.
"In this critical moment, the United States stands with the people of Niger to honor our decades-long partnership rooted in shared democratic values and support for civilian-led governance," Biden said in his statement. "The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders. They have expressed their will through free and fair elections -- and that must be respected.
"Defending fundamental democratic values, and standing up for constitutional order, justice, and the right of peaceful assembly, are essential to the partnership between Niger and the United States. I call for President Bazoum and his family to be immediately released and for the preservation of Niger's hard-earned democracy."
On Wednesday, France's foreign ministry said that two flights from Niger with more than 350 French citizens and those of another 10 countries have already arrived in France with evacuation operations continuing for a third flight.
Italy was also in the midst of evacuating citizens, with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani publishing photos online as he met 36 citizens and more than 30 others from foreign countries on the tarmac after their plane touched down.
Niger military Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who led Niger's presidential guards, declared himself leader of the country on July 28 after seizing and deposing Bazoum. Tchiani, who has commanded the presidential guard since 2011, said in a televised address that the military took over the government by force due to economic insecurity and corruption.