Russia's Wagner mercenary group is "taking advantage" of instability in Niger, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told, APA reports citing BBC.
The country has been ruled by a junta following the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum nearly two weeks ago. There have been suggestions the coup leaders have asked for help from Wagner, which is known to be present in neighbouring Mali.
Mr Blinken said he did not think Russia or Wagner instigated Niger's coup. However the US was worried about the group "possibly manifesting itself" in parts of the Sahel region, he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.
"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. Every single place that this Wagner group has gone, death, destruction and exploitation have followed," said Mr Blinken.
"Insecurity has gone up, not down".
He added that there was a "repeat of what's happened in other countries, where they brought nothing but bad things in their wake".
Wagner is believed to have thousands of fighters in countries including the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, where it has lucrative business interests but also bolsters Russia's diplomatic and economic relations.
The group's fighters have been accused of widespread human rights abuses in several African countries. Despite this, there has been speculation Niger's army has asked Wagner for assistance as the country faces the possibility of military intervention.
Ecowas - a trading bloc of 15 West African states - issued a Sunday deadline to Niger's junta leaders to stand down and restore President Bazoum. This deadline was ignored and Ecowas is due to hold a meeting on Thursday to decide on what to do next.