The first group of British nationals have left Niger on a French flight this evening.
A Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed the group had made it onto the flight on Wednesday evening, adding: “We have a team in Paris ready to support them on landing.
“The UK’s Ambassador and a core team remain in Niger to support the very small number of British nationals who are still there.
“We are grateful to the French for their help in this evacuation.”
The country is in the grip of a coup after the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum was removed by members of his personal guard last week. The soldiers declared on national television they had decided to “put an end to the regime…due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.
France, the former colonial power until 1960, began evacuating its citizens and other Europeans on flights this week, and some have arrived in France and Italy.
Tonight’s French flight is thought to have evacuated those British nationals who wanted to leave the country, and who were able to make it to the airport on time.
On Wednesday evening, James Cleverly posted on social media site X saying: “The first group of British nationals have safely left Niger.
In a video, he said: “I’m here in Nigeria, I just had a meeting with the Nigerian president, and a couple of days ago I had a meeting with the Ghanaian president. Obviously we discussed the situation in Niger.
“The UK government’s priority remains the safety of British nationals and helping them get out of the country to safely.”
There are an estimated 600 French nationals, about 500 Italian nationals, and fewer than 100 Germans, The BBC has reported.
i has approached the Foreign Office to ask how many British nationals are left in the country.
Niger had been regarded as one of the region’s last democracies and an ally for Western countries trying to fight against jihadist extremism and violence in the Sahel,
Following the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) suspended ties with Niger, imposed sanctions and warned it could use force if the military junta did not release and reinstate President Bazoum.
Juntas operating in neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea – which are also former French colonies – warned any force would be seen as a declaration of war.
Andrew Mitchell, the Foreign Office minister, previously called for Mr Bazoum to be reinstated and said the UK would be suspending long-term assistance, but continuing to provide critical humanitarian assistance.
France has warned that any attacks on its citizens or on its interests in Niger would provoke an “immediate and stringent” reaction, after its embassy was attacked at the weekend.
But juntas in neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, also former French colonies, warned any forcible intervention would be seen as a declaration of war.
Russian mercenary group Wagner is operating in Mali and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is seeking to expand his reach across the region.