Reacting to a video released by the Abubakar Shekau-led Boko Haram faction Friday, April 2, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has denied claims suggesting that its fighter jet declared missing on Wednesday was downed by insurgents in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria.
The terror group in a seven minutes 30 seconds-long video had shown the NAF 475 Alpha Jet nose-diving after what appeared to be an explosion.
The insurgents then claimed responsibility for the incident and filmed themselves removing useful parts of the damaged aircraft.
Edward Gabkwet, Director of Public Relations and Information for NAF in a statement made public right before midnight on Friday, however, said the jet could not have been brought down by Boko Haram.
“Although the video is still being thoroughly analysed, it is evident that most parts of the video were deliberately doctored to give the false impression that the aircraft was shot down,” Gabkwet, an Air Commodore said.
“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.”
“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.”
Boko Haram, he continued, was only claiming 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 advised Nigerians to disregard the video until NAF concludes its investigations.
“NAF, on its part, remains resolute and will continue to work assiduously, in synergy with sister services and other security agencies, to rid the Northeast of all terrorist elements,” he concluded.
Peccavi Consulting, a UK-based security consulting firm run by former army officer Chidi Nwaonu, agrees with NAF’s explanation for similar reasons.
“The wreckage appears concentrated in one spot, making a mid-air explosion unlikely as that would have dispersed wreckage over quite a distance. The video shows a burning aircraft descending at speed almost vertically towards the ground. Yet one of the deceased pilots appears to be in an ejector seat … partially deployed,” they noted yesterday.
“Even if this was a successful shootdown, unless it was a deliberate air ambush, it does not indicate a massive step-change in capability. The NAF however should review its tactics to identify vulnerabilities such as multiple passes from the same direction over a target.”
Security analyst Bulama Bukarti agrees that the Boko Haram video was edited but has other concerns, including how the insurgents were able to trace the jet before Nigerian troops.
“It worries me how, in the wake of every single major atrocity, we start quibbling about the details instead of learning [the] right lessons. Even if this jet crashed, we need to ask: why? Besides, we know that BH has AA [anti-aircraft] weapons. Last month, they shot projectiles into Maiduguri,” he tweeted Saturday morning.
“Assuming it’s a crash, we still owe our national heroes a duty to ask questions. This is the second time an NAF plane crashed this year. Why? Is there a problem with their training or the command and control or is it faults with the planes? How can we ensure this doesn’t repeat?”