The Nigerian Ąir Force (NAF) says its Alpha Jet aircraft returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna, came under intense enemy fire about 12. 45 p.m. on Sunday, leading to its crash in Zamfara.
A statement by Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, the Director of Public Relations and Information, NAF Headquarter, stated that luckily, the gallant pilot of the aircraft, Flt.-Lt. Abayomi Dairo, successfully ejected from the aircraft.
Accordiņg to Gabkwet, using his survival instincts, the pilot, who came under intense ground fire from the bandits, was able to evade them and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset.
He added that the pilot, using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, was able to elude several bandits’ strongholds and maneuvered his way to a Nigerian Army Unit where he was finally rescued.
“It is instructive to note that upon receipt of the news of the crash, the Chief of Air Staff, (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, had directed that all efforts must be emplaced to rescue the pilot.
“Accordingly, NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopter gunships provided close air support to NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops.
“Who were able to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for any sign of the pilot.
“It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Dairo confirmed that the presence of NAF aircraft within the vicinity of the crash site helped in scaring the bandits who were after him, thus enabling him to find refuge and escape to a safe location.”
He recalled that only recently, President Muhammadu Buhari, had directed the Armed Forces to do all they could to flush out criminal elements in Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states.
Gabkwet added that it was in fulfilment of the directive that NAF, in conjunction with surface forces, had in the last two weeks mounted intensive day and night air interdiction operations against bandits and their hideouts.
He said that the operations were “sspecially in these three states, and through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralized and several of their hideouts destroyed.
“In spite the setback of Sunday crash, NAF remains committed towards fulfilling the President’s mandate as well as other constitutional roles assigned to it.
“The willingness, readiness and tested ability of NAF remains unshaken and unwavering as it continues to carry out its assigned roles.“