Detained Russian Plane Not Carrying Arms – French Ambassador

Jacques Champagne de Labriolle
Jacques Champagne de Labriolle

The Nigerian authorities are set to release a Russian cargo plane detained in Kano following investigation into its provenance and what it was carrying.

The unscheduled arrival of the plane early on Saturday stoked speculation in Nigeria’s media, with reports saying it was carrying arms and ammunition on its way to Chad, a country whose president has been alleged to have ties with terrorist group Boko Haram.

The Antonov 124, which had Nigerian diplomatic clearance, diverted to Kano 710 kilometres (441 miles) due west because of heavy air traffic in the Chadian capital, said France’s ambassador to Nigeria, Jacques Champagne de Labriolle.

In an email state, the French envoy noted that checks were made because of the aircraft’s nationality and the nature of the cargo and the French Embassy in Abuja supplied information.

“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 authorised to pursue its flight to N’Djamena,” he added.

“Contrary to some press reports, there was absolutely no weapon and no ammunition on board the aircraft,” he said.

De Labriolle said the commercial charter, run by Russian firm 224 Flight Unit, was carrying two French Army Gazelle light helicopters. Spare parts and maintenance items were also being transported on the flight from Bangui, in the Central African Republic, to Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

The hardware was being transferred as France winds down its military operations in the CAR and reinforces its anti-Islamist regional operation, codenamed Barkhane, in Chad.

Being a Russian plane, Russia’s embassy in Abuja had earlier been contacted, but the country had initially denied that the plane was theirs before later confirming that it was and that it was carrying French military equipment.

According to AFP, the 18 Russian crew members and two French military personnel on board were not arrested but questioned about alleged discrepancies in the cargo manifest and flight plan.