Two days after the Nigerian Air Force jet had gone missing, Islamic terrorist outfit Boko Haram released a video on Friday in which it claimed responsibility for downing a jet with two pilots on board.
A jet deployed against Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State of Northeast Nigeria lost contact with radar late last Wednesday. Air Force spokesman Edward Gabkwet disclosed the identities of the pilots but said their whereabouts are unknown.
On Friday, the terror outfit released a video of the destroyed jet and a corpse of one of the two pilots. The video was viewed by News Agency Reuters. However, it was unable to verify the authenticity of the video.
As per Reuters, the video showed the wreckage of a plane lying on the ground, with the charred fuselage bearing the phrase “NAF 475”. A Boko Haram terrorist with his covered with a mask stands atop the wreckage and identified the plane as the “jet fighter of the Nigerian Air Force 475”, Reuters said. Later in the video, a deformed corpse is shown in military fatigues.
“As you can see, this is the pilot of your aircraft, whom you sent to harm the servant of God. This is what God did to him. He fell from the sky, and if you do not repent this will be your reward,” the Boko Haram fighter says.
The footage also showed Boko Haram fighters moving along a dusty road, in gun trucks and on motorbikes. The video showed the jet exploding before it crashed.
While Boko Haram claimed the responsibility of shooting down the aircraft, experts doubt the authenticity of the claim and allege that the plane might have crashed due to some malfunction and not by the Boko Haram attack.
In a statement issued earlier on Friday, the Nigerian Air Force conjectured that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that went off the radar with 2 crew members on board on 31 March 2021 might have crashed.
“Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing by NAF surveillance aircraft as well as NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops on the ground,” its statement said. “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.”
Nevertheless, the crash of the Nigerian Air Force Jet could deal a heavy blow to the country’s efforts to fight jihadist forces active in the northeast, given that airpower has so far proven to be a decisive factor in curtailing the spread of Boko Haram and its more powerful offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province.
In 2014, a similar claim of shooting down an air force jet was made by Boko Haram. A video was released in which Boko Haram fighter claimed that an aircraft had been downed by the terror outfit and its pilot beheaded.
Since the extremist insurgency broke out in 2009, the conflict has claimed 36,000 lives in the region and displaced upwards of two million people from their homes.