US official says Tandja can blame himself for Niger coup

US official says Tandja can blame himself for Niger coup AFP/File – President Mamadou Tandja of Niger casts his vote at a polling station for the parlementery election in …

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A senior US official indicated that Niger's President Mamadou Tandja only has himself to blame for Thursday's coup in the west African nation.

Soldiers reportedly seized Tandja earlier Thursday amid gunbattles that killed at least three troops and a group calling itself the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) announced the suspension of the constitution.

"This is a difficult situation," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters, giving the first US reaction to the coup.

"President Tandja has been trying to extend his mandate in office. And obviously, that may well have been, you know, an act on his behalf that precipitated this act today," he said.

Crowley was quick to stress that the United States does "not in any way, shape or form defend violence of this nature.

"Clearly, we think this underscores that Niger needs to move ahead with the elections and the formation of a new government," he added, noting that Washington still had few details of what actually took place in Niger.

Tandja, the country's strongman for the past decade, defied local and international calls last year to change the constitution to allow himself to extend his grip on power.