Officers killed in Nigeria’s plane crash were close to finding location of abducted schoolboys

ABUJA, Nigeria—The seven personnel of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) who died in a deadly plane crash in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Sunday were close to discovering the location of dozens of college students abducted by gunmen from their college in north-central Nigeria final week, two senior navy sources instructed The Daily Beast.

The crew—led by Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama, the plane captain, and Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo, the co-pilot—had been in Minna, the capital of Nigeria’s north-central Niger state, for days conducting intelligence gathering missions in reference to concerted efforts to safe the discharge of 42 individuals, together with 27 college students. The group was abducted final Wednesday, when gunmen in navy uniforms raided the Government Science College in Kagara, killing one pupil in the method.

On Sunday, the officers acquired intelligence relating to the location of the abductees. According to the 2 navy sources, they rapidly flew to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja to refuel their Beechcraft KingAir B350i plane. They were on their manner again to Minna when the NAF said the plane reported engine failure and crashed because it tried to return to Abuja, killing everybody on board.

“They had a clue of the place the scholars were positioned on the time and were getting ready to survey the realm when the crash occurred,” one of the navy sources, an officer from the NAF, instructed The Daily Beast. The supply added that, had the incident not occurred, he believed the air pressure officers “would have been in a position to report the precise location of everybody kidnapped from the Kagara college.”

News of the plane crash created anxiousness throughout Nigeria and led to rumors on social media that the plane might have been intentionally touched by actors trying to get rid of the seven officers, described by the NAF in an announcement as “well-trained” and “devoted personnel.” The nation’s Chief of Air Staff Isiaka Amao on Sunday ordered an “immediate investigation” into the loss of life of the officers, who had carried out intelligence gathering operations throughout the whole area of northern Nigeria, together with the northeast, the place ISIS-backed militants and Boko Haram function.

“We ought to stay calm and look ahead to the result of investigation by the navy,” Nigeria’s minister of aviation Sirika Hadi Tweeted on Sunday, showing to handle rumors swirling across the trigger of the crash. Nigerian authorities have usually been accused of defending armed teams affiliated with the Fulani tribe from the predominantly Muslim northern area of Nigeria, the place President Muhammadu Buhari is from. Most of the officers killed in Sunday’s plane crash were from southern Nigeria, a predominantly Christian area.

“The investigators will take a look at each attainable trigger of the crash together with foul play,” one other navy supply instructed The Daily Beast. “I’m certain that the brand new Chief of Air Staff [who was appointed late in January] would need to get to the underside of the matter.”

It’s not the primary time the loss of life of skilled NAF officers on the forefront of the combat in opposition to harmful militants leads to an inquiry.

Last yr, the nation’s first-ever feminine fight helicopter pilot Tolulope Arotile was killed from the affect of a reversing automobile that had crashed into her, elevating suspicion throughout Nigeria that she was murdered. According to the NAF, Arotile was “inadvertently hit” by “an excited former Air Force secondary college classmate whereas attempting to greet her” contained in the NAF base in the northwestern metropolis of Kaduna. The 24-year-old had simply returned from an operation the navy named “Gama Aiki” in Niger state, the place she was deployed in the combat in opposition to ISIS-backed militants and different prison gangs, referred to regionally as “bandits,” by flying fight missions. Her last fight mission in northern Nigeria was devastating for the terrorists she targeted.

Like Arotile, the seven NAF personnel killed in the crash on Sunday had been key actors in the combat to rid northern Nigeria of bandits and jihadists. According to the NAF, “in the course of conducting Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions,[the officers] had operated in nearly all theatres, together with the North-East, North-West in addition to the North Central.” Records show that they were flying in one of the NAF’s three Beechcraft King Air 350is, and were undoubtedly some of essentially the most skilled and dependable in the Air Force, which mentioned it has been dealt an enormous blow by the loss.

“The NAF would discover it troublesome to change the personnel primarily based on their coaching and expertise acquired over time,” Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, mentioned in a press launch on behalf of Chief of Air Staff Amao on Monday. “The Service was nonetheless consoled by the truth that the deceased personnel gave their utmost in service to the nation.”

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