Mali Accuses French Military of Breaching Airspace, Violating Sanctions

Bamako — Mali has accused France of breaching its airspace and threatened unspecified consequences if it happens again.

Mali's military government Wednesday condemned France for flying a military plane into the country from Ivory Coast this week.

In a statement, government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga called the flight Tuesday from Abidjan to Mali's city of Gao a "clear breach" of its airspace.

Maiga also accused the French military plane of switching off its communication with Mali's aviation authorities.

He threatened consequences if the incident is repeated, saying Mali's government would "refuse any liability relating to the risks to which the perpetrators of these practices could expose themselves."

A French military official, who refused to be named, denied the claims to Agence France-Presse, saying all procedures were respected and that Malian authorities had approved the flight.

The French military maintains a base in Gao, to help Mali fight Islamist insurgents, after gradually withdrawing troops from other bases in northern Mali.

The statement came just hours after a West African aviation authority accused the French military plane of violating regional sanctions against Mali.

The Dakar, Senegal-based Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar also told Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency it was not notified of the flight in advance.

The Economic Community of West African States Sunday banned transport and trade between member states and Mali after the military leaders delayed elections.

Leaders of Mali's August 2020 coup promised elections in February but last week announced a plan to hold the polls in 2026.

France is supporting the ECOWAS sanctions against Mali and its national airline, Air France, Wednesday suspended all flights to Mali until further notice.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse.

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