Niger’s junta shuts airspace and accuses nations of invasion plans
Niger’s mutinous soldiers have closed the country’s airspace and accused foreign powers of preparing an attack, as the junta defied a deadline to restore the ousted president.
Military officials said any attempt to fly over the country will be met with “an energetic and immediate response”.
Niger’s state television announced the move on Sunday night, hours before West African regional bloc Ecowas had demanded that the coup leaders reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum or face military force.
A spokesman for the coup leaders, Col Maj Amadou Abdramane, warned over “the threat of intervention being prepared in a neighbouring country” and said Niger’s airspace is closed until further notice.
The junta asserted that two central African countries have joined preparations for an invasion, without specifying which ones, and called on the country’s population to defend it.
It is not immediately clear what Ecowas will do now that the deadline has passed.
Thousands of people in Niger’s capital, Niamey, attended a stadium rally with coup leaders on Sunday.
Niger had been seen by the United States, France and other partners as their last major counter-terrorism partner in the vast Sahel region, south of the Sahara Desert, where groups linked to al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic Group state have been expanding their range.
The future of some 1,500 French military personnel and 1,100 US military personnel in Niger is not immediately known, though the junta leaders have severed security arrangements with Paris.
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