Armed gangs locally referred to as “bandits” have shot down a Nigerian Airforce Alpha jet in northwestern Zamfara state on Sunday, July 18, 2021.
According to the Nigerian Air Force, the pilot had finished a raid against kidnappers when he came under intense fire.
The attack which happened on the border of the northern Zamfara and Kaduna states did not claim the life of the pilot. Flight Lt Abayomi Dairo ejected and used “survival instincts” to evade kidnap. He was able to find his way to an army base “where he was finally rescued”.
Debunking Fake News
The Nigerian government has debunked a new video making the rounds claiming the attack was carried out by Boko Haram. The video is confirmed to have been recorded in April.
Boko Haram and its breakaway faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have been carrying out attacks in northwestern Nigeria for years. But there are also other criminal groups on the move in the area, described by the government as “bandits” who specialise in extorting ransom through mass abduction.
Students have been mostly targeted, with more than 1,000 kidnapped since December. Most have since been freed, reportedly after ransoms were paid, but some have been killed.
In recent days, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the military to flush out criminals in the states of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna.
Bearing this in mind, the Nigerian Air Force said it had mounted day and night air operations against the bandits in collaboration with ground forces. It was in one of the operations that the fighter jet was brought down on Sunday.
“Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralised and several of their hideouts destroyed,” the Nigerian Air Force said in a statement.
While there have been several military planes crashes this year, this is the first reported case of armed gangs downing one.
Elected in 2015, former major general Muhammadu Buhari has been under increasing pressure from allies and critics alike over his government’s handling of mounting security problems in Africa’s most populous country.
The recent development has also raised a public discourse on the possibility of actualizing security in the north, seeing as bandits may now possess anti-aircraft weaponry.