Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani has declared himself the new leader of Niger after a dramatic coup.
Also known as Omar Tchiani, he staged a takeover which started on Wednesday when the presidential guards unit he led seized the country’s leader.
This shatters Niger’s first peaceful and democratic transition since independence in 1960.
President Mohamed Bazoum is thought to be in good health, and still held captive by his own guards.
He had been considered a key ally by Western nations in the fight against Islamist militants in the region.
The coup has been roundly condemned by international bodies including the African Union, West African regional bloc (Ecowas), the EU and the UN.
However, the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has reportedly praised the coup, describing it as a triumph.
“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers,” Yevgeny Prigozhin was quoted as saying on a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel.