Air force dismisses Boko Haram’s claim of downing missing fighter jet

Two personnel on the missing Nigeria Air Force Alpha jet were feared dead following reports that the aircraft had crashed at the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State.

The NAF identified the two men as Flt Lts. John Abolarinwa and Ebiakpo Chapele.

The Air Force dismissed claims by terror group, Boko Haram, that it gunned down the missing Alpha jet, which disappeared from the radar on Wednesday.

It said there was no confirmation of the claims, noting that the clips posted online by the group might be that of a previous incident.

Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for downing the aircraft in a viral video on Friday.

The Abubakar Shekau-led faction of the Boko Haram sect released the footage of a crashed jet with one of its fighters standing on the wreckage. A body was also seen in the wreckage of the aircraft.

The NAF spokesperson, Edward Gabkwet, said the aircraft which lost radar contact on Wednesday around 5pm was providing support for ground troops fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East region when it disappeared.

Gabkwet in a statement on Friday added, “Intelligence report gathered by the Nigerian Air Force indicates that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that went off the radar with two crew members on board on March 31, 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 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.”

Gabkwet in his reaction to Boko Haram’s claims insisted that the video was fraught with inconsistencies that established it as fake, adding that the lush vegetation in one of the videos suggested it was not in the North-East.

He said, “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 Air Force pilot or have you seen any Air Force uniform? Until we get all these details, 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, without concrete evidence. There must be something to show”.

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