NIAMEY (Agencies) Niger President Mamadou Tandja and his cabinet were being held by soldiers after gunbattles in the capital, BBC reported on Thursday quoting a government source. Gunfire broke out around the presidential palace at about 1200 GMT and continued for 30 minutes, said the BBCs Idy Baraou in Niamey. BBC correspondent said tanks were on the streets and witnesses reported seeing injured people being taken to hospital. An unnamed senior French official told AFP a coup attempt was under way. All I can say is that it would appear that Tandja is not in a good position, he told the news agency on condition of anonymity. Soldiers captured Mr Tandja while he was chairing his weekly cabinet meeting, the government source said. But Reuters news agency spoke to other people inside the palace who said things were all right. We can hear gunshots from time to time but... the president is in his office, a security source told Reuters by telephone. A BBC correspondent said sporadic shooting was still going on. A witness told AFP that the bodies of three soldiers had been taken to a military mortuary. But the situation in Niamey remained unclear, with radio stations continuing their programmes as normal and apparently there had been no large-scale deployment of military personnel. Political tensions have been growing in the West African nation since Mr Tandja changed the constitution last year to allow him to stand for a third term. The government and opposition have been holding on-off talks - mediated by the regional body Ecowas - to try to resolve the countrys political crisis. Mr Tandja, a former army officer, was first voted into office in 1999 and was returned to power in an election in 2004. Niger has experienced long periods of military rule since independence from France in 1960. The African Union condemned the violence.