Monday, 8 December 2014
France Confirms Ownership of Two Helicopters Found in Seized Cargo Plane
It added that the helicopters, light Gazelle, which were headed for Ndjamena, Chad, were part of France’s efforts to support regional cooperation against terrorism as agreed by the Heads of State of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun at the security summit held in Paris in May 2014.
The Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Mr. Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday night, said the plane which was chartered from a Russian company, 224 Flight Unit, was diverted to Kano airport as air traffic conditions in N’Djamena were too dense for landing.
The Russian crew, he said, decided to fly to Kano, being the closest airport, to refuel and then proceed to N’Djamena.
He added that the plane was given diplomatic clearance by Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The freight consisted of two Gazelle helicopters (a four-seater light liaison helicopter) with spare parts and maintenance items. Two French military non-commissioned officers escorted the equipment as passengers,” he said.
There was absolutely no weapon and ammunition on board the aircraft, the statement read, adding that “due to the nationality of the aircraft and nature of the cargo, local airport Nigerian authorities decided to check the flight plan, the clearance and cargo before authorising the plane to leave”.
The ambassador, in the statement, further explained that after official information had been supplied by the French Embassy, to the satisfaction of Nigerian authorities, the authorities announced that the plane would be authorised to continue its flight to N’Djamena.
“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 cost of such transport operations.
“The use of Russian companies to transport French military equipment is common practice,” Champagne de Labriolle said.
The plane was chartered on December 6, 2014, the Ambassador added.
Similarly, the Embassy of Russia in Abuja Saturday said on its twitter handle that it had nothing to do with the plane, stating: “According to the information of the Embassy, the detained plane in Kano, allegedly carrying military hardware on board, is not Russia.”
Also, in a statement issued last night, the embassy said: “On Saturday, December 6th 2014, the Russian plane with the cargo of the French peacekeeping mission in Chad on board routing from Bangui to N’Djamena made an emergency landing in the Kano International Airport.
“At present time, the Russian and French Embassies in Abuja are taking measures to provide immediate take-off of the plane. Nigerian authorities demonstrated full understanding of the situation and have no claims to the cargo and to the crew members.”
There were reports that two helicopters, bullet proof jeeps, AK-47 rifles and other military hardware were discovered on the plane whose French-speaking crew was briefly held by the Nigerian authorities for investigations.
Meanwhile, in has emerged that at least 67 members of the terror Boko Haram sect were killed during a fierce battle for the control of Ashaka, the host community of Lafarge’s cement plant in Gombe State last Thursday.
However, after suffering a heavy defeat in the hands of Nigerian troops, their fleeing colleagues managed to retrieve three truckloads of their dead members before their final retreat from the town, which they stormed earlier that day.
The terrorists, who had come in large numbers with heavy ammunition and a convoy of over 30 vehicles including a number of motorcycles, were on a mission to take control of Ashaka town, after they had operated in Bajoga and its environs in the state.
According to a tweet from the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) last Friday, DHQ said that troops who got wind of the terrorists’ intention to over run other towns, pursued them while others laid ambush for other Boko Haram members.
The terrorists were forced to abandon their mission when the troops proved unyielding.
Most of the vehicles and equipment used by the terrorists for their mission were destroyed before they were forced to flee the location.
Unfortunately, more than 10 soldiers were killed during the battle while others who were wounded are being treated in military hospitals.
In another incident, patrolling troops on Saturday had an encounter with a group of terrorists in Kwanta, Yobe State.
Apart from a number of sect members that died in the encounter, some equipment and weapons including tubes for rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), machine guns and rounds of different calibre of ammunition were also captured from the terrorists.
No casualty was recorded on the part of the troops in Kwanta.