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Niger military bans French aircraft from its airspace amid escalating tensions

Niger bans French aircraft or any plane chartered by the European country from its airspace.

Niger’s airspace is “open to all national and international commercial flights except for French aircraft or aircraft chartered by France including those of the airline Air France,” it said in the statement dated late Saturday. 

The air space would remain closed for “all military, operational and other special flights”, unless receiving prior authorisation, the message said. 

Air France told AFP simply that it was “not flying over Niger airspace”. 

Niger had reopened its airspace on September 4 for commercial flights after having been closed for nearly a month. 

The West African nation then announced on August 6 it was closing its airspace due to the “threat of intervention from neighbouring countries”, as the Economic Community of West African States threatened military action to restore the elected President Mohamed Bazoum who had been overthrown in a coup on July 26. 

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The announcement comes after the military regime that took control of Niger following a coup on July 26.

Notably, the ban on French aircraft marks a significant escalation in the conflict between Niger’s military regime and France. 

French President Emmanuel Macron declared in mid-September that the French ambassador to Niger was being “hostage” by the military in power.

The tension escalated when the military regime ordered the expulsion of the French ambassador at the end of August after Paris refused to comply with an ultimatum demanding his departure. 

France argued that the regime lacked the authority to make such a demand.

Meanwile, France has repeatedly supported the West African bloc, and relations between Paris and Niamey have been at an all-time low since the coup. 

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