The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has dismissed videos being circulated on social media and media reports alleging that the NAF Alpha Jet aircraft, which was reported missing in Borno State on March 31, 2021 after losing radar contact, was shot down by terrorists.
Boko Haram had, in a video circulating on social media on Friday, two days after the Air Force fighter jet went missing in the country’s northeast, claimed it shot down the aeroplane.
The video by Boko Haram shows the wreckage of a plane burning on the ground, with the charred fuselage bearing the phrase “NAF 475”. A masked fighter stands atop the wreckage and identifies the plane as “jet fighter of the Nigerian Air Force 475”, the footage shows. Later, a mangled 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,” the fighter says. “This is what god did to him. He fell from the sky, and if you do not repent this will be your reward.”
But Edward Gabkwet, director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, said in a statement that although the video is still being thoroughly analysed, it is evident that most parts of it were deliberately doctored to give the false impression that the aircraft was shot down.
Gabkwet said one of such videos, in particular, began with sporadic shooting by several terrorists, including underaged children on motorcycles and vehicles. It later skipped abruptly to a scene depicting an aircraft exploding mid-air, supposedly as a result of enemy action, and another part of the video showed a terrorist who, while standing by the wreckage, claimed that they had shot down the NAF aircraft.
“For instance, the video clip failed to show the correlation between the sporadic shooting, which even from casual observation was obviously aimed at ground targets, and the sudden mid-air aircraft explosion,” Gabkwet said.
“In addition, it is almost impossible for an aircraft to have exploded mid-air, in the manner depicted in the video, and still have a good part of its fuselage, including its tail, intact. Indeed, an explosive impact of that nature would have scattered the debris of the aircraft across several miles.
“It is obvious that the Boko Haram Sect, in its characteristic manner of employing false propaganda, is seeking to claim credit for what was obviously an air accident that could have been caused by several other reasons, particularly at a time when the capability of the group to inflict mayhem has been significantly degraded by the Armed Forces of Nigeria,” he stated.
He advised Nigerians to ignore the contents of the videos making the rounds until all investigations as to how the aircraft crashed are completed.
The Nigerian Air Force had said in an earlier statement on Friday that intelligence reports it gathered indicated that the Alpha-Jet aircraft might have crashed and that the cause of the crash as well as the whereabouts of the two pilots – Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele – remained unknown.
It said extensive search and rescue efforts were still ongoing by its surveillance aircraft as well as its 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,” the statement said.