Gunfire reported near presidency in Niger

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) - Gunfire has been reported near the presidential palace in the West African nation of Niger.

An Associated Press correspondent heard gunshots for about 15 minutes and said that residents have fled the downtown area of the capital.

Last year a referendum was passed allowing President Mamadou Tandja to extend his rule for years past the constitutional limit.

The opposition protested the referendum, saying it granted Tandja near-totalitarian powers in the uranium-rich nation. Tandja claimed he was only pushing to stay in power because his people had demanded it.

After three coups hit Niger between 1974 and 1999, Tandja twice won votes deemed fair.

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