An army unit in Niger tried to seize the presidential palace in Niamey overnight in an attempted coup, the Niger government said. According to several security sources who spoke to Reuters, the military members came from a nearby airbase and were forced back by presidential security forces. Order has now been restored.

The coup attempt comes just days before the official handover of power in Niger and the swearing-in of President-elect Mohamed Bazoum.

“On the night of March 30-31, an attempted coup was thwarted,” the Niger government said in a statement, condemning “this cowardly and regressive act which sought to threaten democracy and the state of law.”

“The government condemns this coward and backward act that had the intention to attack the democracy and the rule of law that our state has embarked upon as we have seen during these recent elections which were democratic, free and fair and lauded as such by the international community,” the statement added.

On Friday, President-elect Bazoum is set to take the reins from President Mahamadou Issoufou, who stepped down after holding office for two five-year terms. This was slated to be Niger’s first-ever peaceful transfer of power. Neither of the two men was harmed in the assault on the presidential palace.

The results of the election were disputed by Bazoum’s opponent, Mahamane Ousmane.

The fighting at the presidential palace lasted only about 15 minutes. It involved heavy shooting and shelling of the coup’s forces before they were forced to flee back to their airbase. According to several reports, several military members were arrested. Authorities expect that the number will rise as they conduct an investigation. 

“Several people have been arrested and others linked to the events are being actively sought,” government spokesman Abdourahmane Zakaria said in a statement.