By TARKAA DAVID, Abuja and FRANCIS OKOYE, Maiduguri
The Nigerian Air Force has named its officers involved in the crashed aircraft in the North East.
The aircraft was reported missing on Wednesday, while providing close air support to ground troops in Borno State.
This is as a terrorist group claimed responsibility for thje crashed plane.
A statement by the director of Public Relations and Information, Air Cdre Edward Gabkwet, said the cause of the crash and whereabouts of the two crew men was still unknown.
But the air force named the pilots as Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele.
“Intelligence report gathered by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) indicates that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) which went off the radar with two crew members on board on 31st March, 2021, might have crashed.
“The cause of the crash, as well as the whereabouts of the two pilots, remain unknown. The pilots are Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele,” NAF said in the statement.
But the Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram, Jama’atu Ahlussunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, yesterday released footage of it shooting down the missing Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet Aircraft.
The terrorist group in a video released on Friday claimed its members shot down the jet.
In the video, the group also showed fighters carrying RPG and artillery equipment, as well as a corpse of the pilot and the aircraft’s debris.
Also in the video, a ball of explosion covered a Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet.
The seven minutes, 30 seconds-long video showed the Alpha Jet flying low over a battlefield arena with multiple Boko Haram fighters engaging in fierce and uncoordinated firefights.
The insurgents could be seen firing what was likely a heavy machine gun (anti-aircraft gun) towards the combat aircraft. Then the footage of a fireball explosion could be seen, as the Alpha Jet headed rapidly towards the ground.
Fighters subsequently moved to the area of the crash and began removing components of the aircraft and the pilots’ personal belongings.
The video also showed a masked fighter armed with a belt-fed machine gun standing on the aircraft debris, and speaking both Arabic and English.
The multiple Boko Haram fighters had gun trucks, motorcycles, AK pattern rifles, belt-fed machines and what appeared to be at least one OTO Melara M56 105mm howitzer improvised into a mobile artillery system and Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SBVIEDs) type vehicle.
The terrorists were seen in the video glorifying Allah for giving them victory and a masked man stood on the debris of the fighter Jet saying in fluent English:” Nigeria Air Force Jet No 475 was sent to Sambisa to fight us, but Allah has given us victory. Now our message to you is to repent and this is the only way for you,” the masked man said. Our correspondent reports that part of the jet carrying the aircraft No 475 has not burnt when the terrorists displayed the video.
The Alpha Jet is an advanced trainer and attack aircraft that has served in the NAF inventory for almost 30 years, with the Air Force receiving new deliveries of the attack (A) variants in 2015 and 2018 from the United States of America. The crashed NAF 475 Alpha Jet is from that batch.
NAF had lost radar contact with an Alpha Jet conducting a routine mission in support of ground troops on Wednesday evening in the Sambisa forest area of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria.