Military plane shot down in Nigeria by bandits

Published : July 20, 2021 18:12 IST

The Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet (file) shot down is used for training and light combat missions primarily but is being increasingly used by Nigeria over areas not really in government control. Photo: Hansenn/Zoonar/picture alliance

A Nigerian jet has been downed in the northwest of the country. The pilot safely ejected and avoided capture.

The Nigerian air force on July 19 said that one of its planes "came under intense enemy fire" from armed groups with the pilot ultimately forced to bail out. The Alpha Jet had been operating around the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna State when the incident happened.

Air force spokesman Edward Gabkwet said in a statement that the fighter jet was "returning from a successful air interdiction mission" on July 18. "Using his survival instincts, the pilot, who came under intense ground fire from the bandits, was able to evade them and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset," the statement said.

The pilot, Abayomi Dairo, found his way to an army base where he was rescued after ejecting from the cockpit.

Zamfara state riddled with violence

A video being circulated online showed the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram taking responsibility for the attack. However, this turned out to be a recycled video first released in April when another Nigerian Alpha Jet was downed. Boko Haram and its breakaway faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province, are probably the most famous militant groups battling for control of parts of northern Nigeria and neighboring countries.

Zamfara and neighboring Kaduna are among the states with a surge in criminal activities such as mass abductions of schoolchildrenand armed robberies. This is often carried out by large gangs of outlaws, typically dubbed "bandits" by the government, who operate from remote hideouts.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, nearly 2,4 million people in Nigeria and neighboring countries have been forced to flee because of terrorist groups. Nigeria's government has become increasingly reliant on its air force to carry out missions in areas where its ground forces can no longer safely tread. Pilots have been carrying out sorties daily over Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states for the past two weeks, with the military reporting that they "neutralized" hundreds of bandits.

This May, Nigeria's top military officer Ibrahim Attahiru was killed in a plane crash in bad weather on an official visit to Kaduna state.

on/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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