It was almost certain on Friday that the missing fighter jet belonging to the Nigeria Air Force has crashed with Boko Haram claiming responsibility for the incident.
The Alpha Jet lost radar contacts on Wednesday while engaging terrorists in the Sambisa forest area of Borno State. An online news medium HumAngle reported seeing a video released by the Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram showing the jet exploding mid-air.
According to the report, the seven minutes 30 seconds long video shows the Alpha jet flying low over a battlefield arena with multiple Boko Haram fighters engaging in fierce and uncoordinated firefights. But the Nigerian Air Force on Friday dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it gunned down the missing Alpha jet.
Director Public Relations and Information Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet told Saturday Tribune that the viral video could be clips from a previous incident. He pointed out that the video was fraught with inconsistencies that established it was fake, adding that the lush vegetation in one of the videos suggest it was not in the Northeast.
According to him, “We have seen some videos but there is nothing that has proven that the aircraft in those clips belongs to us, or have you seen a Nigerian Air Force aircraft number or the body of an Air Force pilot or have you seen any Air Force uniform? Until we get all these details strengthen out, we are not going to go into speculation.
“That video could have been shot somewhere. I have seen four videos so far, one of them has lush vegetation in the background, and I wonder where they have such vegetation in the Northeast. Unless they did something and they are releasing the clips bit by bit, we are waiting.
“Except we have evidence, because like I said, these persons have families and you cannot go to their wives, parents or wards, you must bring concrete evidence. There must be something to show.”
The NAF spokesperson promised to issue a comprehensive statement on the claim of the terrorist group shortly. The insurgents can be seen in the video firing what is likely a heavy machine gun (anti-aircraft gun) towards the combat aircraft. Then the footage of a fireball explosion can be seen, as the Alpha Jet heads rapidly towards the ground. Fighters subsequently move to the area of the crash and begin removing components of the aircraft and the pilots’ personal belongings.
The video also shows a masked fighter armed with a belt-fed machine gun standing on the aircraft debris, and speaking both Arabic and English.
According to the reports, 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 Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had on Friday afternoon confirmed that the fighter jet, NAF475, which went off the radar on Wednesday, may have crashed with the cause unknown.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen on Friday in Abuja by the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet.
The statement gave the names of the two pilots on board as Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele and declared that their whereabouts remained unknown. The statement reads: “Intelligence report gathered by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) indicates that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that went off the radar with two crew members on board on 31 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.
“Extensive search and rescue efforts are still ongoing by NAF surveillance aircraft as well as NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops on the ground.
“At this point, the NAF is not ruling out anything regarding the incident. It however remains hopeful that the crew would soon be found and rescued.”