France Admits Ownership Of Military Hardware In Russian Plane Detained In Kano

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The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jacques Champagne de
Labriolle, has issued a statement about the Chad-bound aircraft detained by
Nigerian authorities at the Aminu Kano Airport on Saturday believed to be
carrying arms to neighbouring country, Chad when it landed after a technical fault.
The ambassador in the statement denied the plane was
carrying any arms or ammunitions has widely reported by media houses. Read the full statement below.

“A Russian commercial plane carrying two light Gazelle
helicopters belonging to the French Army has unexpectedly landed in Kano on
Saturday December 6th, early in the afternoon.
The development can be explained as follows :
On 6 December, the French armed forces had chartered a
flight on the Russian commercial company “224 Flight Unit”, to ship 2 light
helicopters from Bangui to Ndjamena. The shipment is organized as the size of
the French military intervention in CAR is being reduced, as was earlier announced
by the French Authorities.
The cargo airplane, an Antonov 124, had a regular flight
plan from Bangui to Ndjamena ; the flight was covered by a diplomatic clearance
given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The freight consisted of 2 ‘’Gazelle’’ helicopters (a 4 seater light liaison
helicopter) with spare-parts and maintenance items. 2 French military
non-commissioned officers escorted the equipment as passengers.
As the Antonov was approaching Ndjamena, the air traffic conditions
were too dense to authorize the landing of the aircraft ; and the Antonov had
to divert to an alternate international airport. The closest airport facility
being Kano, the Russian crew decided to fly there, to refuel, and to take off
again to reach Ndjamena Airport.
Due to the nationality of the aircraft, and the nature of
the cargo, local airport Nigerian authorities in Kano have decided to check the
flight plan, the clearance and the cargo manifest before authorizing the plane
to leave. Official information has been supplied by the French Embassy in
Nigeria. The Nigerian federal and airport authorities, being satisfied with the
documents and the genuine character of the flight, have announced that the
plane will be authorized to pursue its flight to Ndjamena.
Contrary to some press reports, there was absolutely no
weapon, and no ammunition on board the aircraft.
The use of chartered flights of various nationalities for
military cargo transport is a standard international practice : it is used by many
nations, and is coherent with commercial competition to reduce the cost of such
transport operations. The use of Russian companies to transport French military
equipment is common practice.
As for the move of the helicopters between CAR and Chad, it
is part of the French effort to support regional cooperation against terrorism,
as agreed by the Heads of State of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon during the
security Summit held in Paris in May, 2014.”

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