Niger closes airspace amid junta’s defiance, threat of intervention


Niger has taken the decision to close its airspace due to the “threat of intervention” as the junta continues to defy a deadline set by the West African bloc ECOWAS. The bloc demanded the junta to reinstate democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum or face potential military action. The ultimatum was issued a week ago, with a deadline for the generals to relinquish power by midnight on Sunday.

In a statement just before the deadline passed, the junta stated that Niger’s airspace would be closed to all aircraft until further notice, in response to the perceived threat of intervention from neighboring countries. The junta warned that any violation of the airspace would be met with an immediate and energetic response.

Reports indicate that as of early Monday, no aircraft were operating in Niger’s skies, according to the flight tracking website Flightradar24.

Meanwhile, the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), now in power, issued a separate statement, stating that there had been signs of “pre-deployment in preparation for intervention” by two Central African countries, without naming them. The CNSP warned that any state involved would be considered co-belligerent.

In the capital Niamey, thousands of coup supporters gathered at the Seyni Kountche stadium to cheer on the CNSP leaders, including General Mohamed Toumba.

ECOWAS military chiefs of staff have agreed on a plan for a possible intervention to address the crisis. While ECOWAS hopes for a diplomatic resolution, they have prepared elements for any eventual intervention, including how and when force would be deployed.

International responses have varied, with former colonial power France stating it would firmly back ECOWAS’s course of action after the deadline. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara called on the coup leaders to stand down and emphasized the importance of upholding constitutional order for Bazoum to govern.

Amidst the tension, residents in Niamey’s Boukoki neighborhood expressed defiance at the prospect of an armed intervention by ECOWAS.

Niger has played a significant role in combating jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel region, with military support from France and the United States stationed in the country. However, anti-French sentiment is rising in the region, and Russian activity, often through the Wagner mercenary group, has increased. Algeria has also warned against a military solution, while Niger’s reliance on foreign aid could be at risk if Bazoum is not reinstated.

As the situation remains tense, international eyes are closely monitoring the developments in Niger, and concerns about the humanitarian situation and regional stability persist.

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