French soldiers apprehended at Equatorial Guinea airport

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According to the French military and local media, six French soldiers were seized while refueling their helicopter at Bata airfield in Equatorial Guinea on Thursday morning.

The soldiers were taken a day after a Paris court confirmed the conviction of the central African Country’s Vice President Teodorin Obiang for amassing luxurious homes with unlawfully obtained monies, according to the army. “They landed on Wednesday at 1:15 pm GMT because they were out of fuel. That is when a sequence of administrative nuisances began,” French army spokesman Pascal Ianni stated adding that negotiations with local officials were underway.

The flight landed without permission, according to Equatorial Guinea’s national radio, TVGE, on Thursday. The six troops were reportedly interrogated at Bata’s central police station, according to reports. “National authorities do not rule out that this incident could be a spy operation and provocation on the part of Paris,” TVGE reported. But Ianni insisted that the landing had nothing to do with spying.

“This incident is similar to ones we have dealt with before. They hold the helicopter and its crew,” Ianni said.

A second unidentified French military source added that all relevant authorizations for the refueling stop had been received. “We stop regularly in Bata but we also regularly have coordination problems with the Bata airport,” the source said, adding that “the control tower in an excess of zeal does not give permission to land.”

The unarmed Fennec helicopter was flying a logistical mission between Douala, Cameroon’s economic powerhouse, and Libreville, Gabon’s capital and home to the French military.