Mali junta condemns clear breach of airspace by French military plane

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A French military transport aircraft takes off from the French military airbase in Gao, northern Mali, on December 31, 2013. PHOTO | AFP

Mali’s army-dominated government Wednesday condemned what it called a “clear breach” of its airspace by a French military aircraft this week, warning of potential consequences should such practices continue.

Malian government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga stated that a compla int had been issued to France after one of its military planes travelled between Ivory Coast’s capital Abidjan and the northern Malian city of Gao on Tuesday.

The flight was a “clear breach” of Malian airspace, the statement said, given the closure of most of the country’s land and air borders due to regional sanctions recently imposed on the Sahel state. 

The French military plane had also switched off its transponder, preventing it from communicating with Malian aviation authorities, according to the statement.

It added that the government would “refuse all responsibility for the risks to which the perpetrators of these practices may be exposed in the event of a further violation of our airspace”.

But a French military official, who declined to be named, denied the Malian government’s claims, saying that the plane’s transponder had been switched to “military mode”.

“All procedures were respected,” the official said, adding that Malian authorities had also approved the aircraft’s flight plan.

On Sunday, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) agreed to shutter land and air borders with Mali and impose a trade embargo over delayed elections.

AFP

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