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Niamey, Aug 7 Niger’s military junta has indefinitely shut the country’s airspace until further notice after a regional bloc warned it could use force if President Mohamed Bazoum was not reinstated, the media reported on Monday.
According to flight tracking website Flightradar24, there were currently no aircraft in Niger’s skies, the BBC reported.
Following a crisis meeting on August 4, military chiefs of the Ecowas regional trading bloc which comprises 15 West African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Ghana, announced that they had drawn up a detailed plan for the possible use of force if Bazoum was not reinstated by 11 p.m. on August 6.
“All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going deploy the force,” the BBC quoted Abdel-Fatau Musah, Ecowas commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, as saying in a statement.
“We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them (Niger’s junta) that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done”.
But as of early Monday morning, Niger’s coup leaders have showed no no sign of willingness to cede power.
On Sunday thousands of their supporters rallied defiantly at a stadium in the country’s capital Niamey.
Bazoum was detained on July 26, and Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, commander of the presidential guard, later proclaimed himself the new leader.
In response to the bloc’s warning, a junta spokesman said that Niger’s armed forces were ready to defend the country.
The military takeover has been internationally condemned, including by former colonial power France, as well as the European Union, UN and the US.
Meanwhile, two of Niger’s neighbours — Burkina Faso and Mali — had earlier warned they would treat any outside military intervention in Niger as “a declaration of war” against them, reports the BBC.
Burkina Faso and Mali are both Ecowas members but have been suspended from the bloc since being ruled by military juntas.