Bandits shoot down Nigeria’s military plane, pilot ejects to safety

The Nigerian air force on Monday 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 Sunday

“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.

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 neighbouring countries.

Zamfara and neighbouring Kaduna are among the states with a  surge in criminal activities such as mass abductions of schoolchildren and 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 neighbouring 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. – dpa, AFP, Reuters.

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