Niger chief flees over baby-trafficking scandal

Niamey - Niger's leader of the opposition and parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou has fled to neighbouring Burkina Faso after parliamentary leaders authorised his arrest on suspicion of involvement in a baby-trafficking network, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference where he announced Hama's departure, Mossi Boubacar accused the government of a "coup d'etat against democracy".

A source close to the Burkinabe presidency confirmed that Hama had arrived in the capital Ouagadougou. The source said neither Hama nor the Niger government had made any requests of the Burkinabe authorities.

Seventeen people, including the wives of several senior politicians, were arrested in June by police investigating allegations they acquired new-born babies from "baby factories" in neighbouring Nigeria.

The second wife of Hama, a former ally turned political rival of President Mahamadou Issoufou, was among those detained in the affair.

"The president of the National Assembly is in Ouagadougou," Mossi said. He said Hama had left the country to avoid any confrontation between his supporters and government loyalists.

"This is not a get-away. He has accepted his responsibility to analyse the situation and confront it," Mossi said.

Political tensions have risen in Niger since last year when Amadou, who had been part of Issoufou's coalition, fell out with the president.

Issoufou's government has accused Amadou and his Nigerien Democratic Movement (MODEN) party of trying to destabilise the uranium-exporting, West African nation.