London/Moscow, Aug 8 (EFE).- The United States and Russia’s Wagner mercenary group hurled accusations at each other on Tuesday over a deepening chaos in the coup-hit West African nation of Niger.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Russian mercenary group was capitalizing on Niger’s instability.
His remarks in an interview with BBC followed comments by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, suggesting that US might recognize the military rulers as a measure to prevent potential intervention by the Russian private army.
Blinken told BBC that the US was worried about the mercenary group “possibly manifesting itself” in the Sahel region.
“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,” Blinken said.
“Every single place that this Wagner group has gone, death, destruction and exploitation have followed.”
Niger is currently under military rule after coup leaders deposed and detained the democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum nearly a fortnight ago.
Numerous media reports have speculated that Niger’s military has reached out to Wagner for support in response to the growing threat of military intervention amid the escalating chaos in the region.
President Bazoum has also expressed concerns regarding Wagner’s growing influence in Africa.
In an audio recording shared on the messaging app Telegram, Prigozhin indicated that the US might acknowledge a government that it did not acknowledge previously, solely to circumvent encountering Wagner within the country.
This statement was made in reference to the visit of the US State Department’s Deputy Secretary, Victoria Nuland, to Niger.
Nuland engaged with several coup leaders in Niger on Monday. However, meaningful progress in the crisis-ridden nation remained elusive.
Last week, President Bazoum appealed to the US and other nations for assistance in reestablishing constitutional order in the country. EFE