Niger junta accuses France of violating airspace

A French military aircraft “deliberately cut off all contact with air traffic control on entering our air space,” from 6:39-11:15 am (0539-1015 GMT) on Wednesday, the Niger junta said in a statement read on national TV, according to media reports.
Niger’s new military rulers also accused France, the country’s traditional ally, of having “unilaterally freed captured terrorists,” a term used for extremists who have been conducting a bloody eight-year-old insurgency.
The extremists allegedly planned an attack on “military positions in the tri-border area,” a hotspot region where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali converge, according to a statement from the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), which seized power on July 26.
The French government rejects accusations by Niger’s new military rulers that it freed “terrorists” and violated the country’s air space, a government source said Wednesday.
Niamey accused France of having released several extremists, and of allowing a military plane to enter its air space.
But the French government source claimed to AFP that the flight in question had been “authorized by and coordinated with” Niger’s armed forces.
The junta had claimed France had allowed a military plane to take off Wednesday from neighboring Chad, which then crossed into Niger, defying a ban imposed on Sunday.
France has around 1,500 troops in Niger to support the country in its fight against extremists who swept in from Mali in 2015.
Responding to the claim that France had released extremists in Niger, the French government source claimed that “no terrorist has been freed by French forces.”

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