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Niger Closes Airspace Amid Fears Of War Against Coupists

On Sunday, Niger took the decision to close its airspace indefinitely, citing concerns over potential military intervention from a regional bloc. This move came after coup leaders refused to meet the deadline set for reinstating the country’s ousted president.

A representative of the junta made an announcement on national television, explaining that they were responding to an apparent threat of intervention. Although no specific details were given, the representative mentioned the pre-deployment of forces in two central African countries in preparation for potential action.

He emphasized that Niger’s armed forces, along with all defense and security forces, were prepared to protect the nation’s territory with the unwavering support of its people.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) held discussions among defense chiefs and crafted a possible military action plan in case President Mohamed Bazoum was not released and reinstated by the specified Sunday deadline. Ecowas, however, has not yet issued a statement regarding their next steps, the AFP reported on Monday.

Amidst the unfolding situation, Italy’s foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, urged Ecowas to extend the deadline for President Bazoum’s reinstatement and emphasized the importance of resolving the crisis diplomatically.

Earlier, thousands of junta supporters gathered at a stadium in the capital, Niamey, celebrating the decision not to stand down by the given deadline, which followed the coup on July 26 that removed the democratically elected President Bazoum.

The coup has had significant ramifications in the Sahel region, known for its economic challenges, uranium and oil resources, and crucial role in combating Islamist militants. Niger’s strategic importance has garnered attention from the US, Europe, China, and Russia.

Last week, Niger revoked its military cooperation agreements with France, a country with a substantial military presence of 1,000 to 1,500 troops in the nation.

The prospect of Ecowas sanctions has led to power outages and a surge in food prices, triggering discussions on encouraging solidarity in the face of these measures.

Concerns over potential military intervention have further complicated the situation in a region already grappling with a deadly Islamist insurgency, leading to thousands of casualties and millions of displaced individuals.

Neighboring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, have pledged to come to Niger’s defense if necessary, warning that any military action against Niger’s new military rulers would be considered a “declaration of war.” As a response, France has suspended development aid and budgetary assistance to Burkina Faso.

Despite the escalating tensions, Bazoum’s prime minister, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, expressed hope in Paris on Saturday that a last-minute agreement was still possible.

In the face of uncertainty, Italy has taken measures to protect its citizens by reducing troop numbers in Niger to create space for potential evacuation if security conditions deteriorate.

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