… Shot down NAF Alpha Jet returning from a successful operation in Zamfara

… Fighter jet pilot, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo survived the crash

… Aircraft came under intense enemy fire which led to its crash — NAF spokesman

… Says in obedience to a presidential directive, NAF, others mount an intensive war against bandits

NIGERIAN Air Force yesterday said that its Alpha Jet aircraft returning from a successful air interdiction mission was shot down by bandits between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna State. Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet who announced this ugly incident in a statement said that the pilot of the fighter jet, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo survived the crash. According to the statement, “On 18 July 2021, at about 12.45 pm, a Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet aircraft, returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna State came under intense enemy fire which led to its crash in Zamfara State.” “Luckily, the gallant pilot of the aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo successfully ejected from the aircraft. 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 waiting for sunset.

“Using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, Flight Lieutenant Dairo was able to elude several bandits’ strongholds and maneuvered his way to a Nigerian Army Unit where he was finally rescued. “It is instructive to note that upon receipt of the news of the crash, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao had directed that all efforts must be emplaced to rescue the pilot. “Accordingly, NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopter gunships provided close air support to NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops who were able to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for any sign of the pilot. “It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Flight Lieutenant Dairo confirmed that the presence of NAF aircraft within the vicinity of the crash site helped in scaring the bandits who were after him thus enabling him to find refuge and escape to a safe location.

“It is important to also recall that only recently, the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the Armed Forces of Nigeria to do all it takes to flush out criminal elements in Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States. “It is in fulfillment of this directive that the NAF, in conjunction with surface forces, has in the last two weeks mounted intensive day and night air interdiction operations against bandits and their hideouts, especially in these three states. Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralised and several of their hideouts destroyed”, he said. Air Commodore Gabkwet noted that despite the setback of yesterday’s crash, the NAF remains committed towards fulfilling Mr. President’s mandate as well as other constitutional roles assigned to it.

He concluded that the willingness, readiness and tested ability of the NAF remain unshaken and unwavering as it continues to carry out its assigned roles. Recall that the Nigeria Beechcraft King Air B350i (NAF 201) crashed in Abuja on February 21, 2021, killing all crew members on board. The then Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force (NAF), AVM Ibikunle Daramola while giving update on the tragic incident said the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), earlier today, 21 February 2021, confirmed that one of its aircraft, a Beechcraft KingAir B350i (NAF 201), crashed while returning to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja after reporting engine failure enroute Minna, where it was scheduled to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students/staff abducted from the Government Science College Kagara, Niger State.

As if that was not enough sorrows, tears and blood, on the 31 of March, 2021, less than one month after the first tragedy, another one struck, but this time around in the theatre of war. Announcing the ugly incident, the Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet in a statement said the NAF Alpha Jet aircraft, was reported missing in Borno State on 31 March 2021 after losing radar contact. Painfully, while the above crash was yet to be resolved by the military, the mother of all military crashes happened in Kaduna. Confirming the air crash that killed the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other military personnel, the director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima in a statement said, “The Nigerian Army regrets to announce the passing away of its Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru.

The sad event occurred following an air crash in Kaduna which also claimed the lives of 10 other officers including the crew. The army chief was en route to Kaduna from Abuja on Friday, 21 May, 2021 when the unfortunate incident happened”. 18 out of the 20 victims of the NAF, perennial air mishap have since been buried, the latest being the burial of the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru and ten others on Saturday, the May 22, 2021. The fate of the crew members for the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that crashed on the 31, March 2021, in the Northeast theatre of operation is still hanging in the balance.

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