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Niger military junta shuts airspace as ECOWAS deadline expires

Niger military junta shuts airspace as ECOWAS deadline expires

The Nigerien military junta has closed the country’s airspace indefinitely over the threat of military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The junta spokesman told journalists on Sunday the armed forces are ready to defend the country against external aggression.

ECOWAS on July 30 gave the junta a seven-day ultimatum to release the ousted President Mohammed Basoum and restore constitutional order in Niger.

The sub-regional bloc also threatened to use military force against the coup plotters if they refused to comply with the demands at the expiration of the deadline.

The ECOWAS military chiefs met in Nigeria last week and drawn up plans for the possible use of force against the junta.

The deadline expired on Sunday night.

Soldiers attached to the presidential guard detained President Basoum on July 26 and cut off power supply to his office and residence.

The head of the presidential guard, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, later proclaimed himself the country’s new leader.

The military takeover has been condemned by the African Union and the United Nations, as well as the country’ s colonial power, France and rest of the European Union

Thousands of people in Niger organized a rally at a stadium in Niger’s capital Niamey in support of the coup leaders on Sunday.

Two of Niger’s neighbours – Burkina Faso and Mali – had earlier warned against external intervention in the current impasse in the impoverished West African country.

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