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NAF pilot escapes death after bandits shot down fighter jet in Zamfara

By Idowu Abdullahi

A pilot with the Nigerian Airforce, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, has escaped death by a whisker after bandits gunned down a Nigerian Airforce Alpha Jet aircraft in Zamfara State and opened fired on the officer.

As gathered, the pilot was returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna States, when the aircraft came under attack and crashed.

The Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore, Edward Gabkwet, confirmed the incident on Monday in a statement made available to journalists. According to him, Dairo escaped when he ejected from the aircraft before the crash and when he landed, the armed bandits gave him a hot chase.

He disclosed that Dairo came under intense enemy attack yesterday around 12.45 pm, successfully ejected from the aircraft, used his survival instincts to evade the bandits’ intense ground fire, and sought refuge in nearby settlements till sunset.

Gabkwet said, “Using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, Flight Lieutenant Dairo 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, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, had directed that all efforts must be emplaced to rescue the pilot.”

Gabkwet stated that the NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance 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.

He added, “It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Flight Lieutenant 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.

“It is important to also recall that only recently, the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, had directed the Armed Forces of Nigeria to do all it takes to flush out criminal elements in Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States.

“It is in fulfilment of this directive that the NAF, in conjunction with surface forces, has in the last 2 weeks mounted intensive day and night air interdiction operations against bandits and their hideouts, especially in these three states. Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralized and several of their hideouts destroyed.

“Despite the setback of yesterday’s crash, the NAF remains committed towards fulfilling Mr President’s mandate as well as other constitutional roles assigned to it. The willingness, readiness and tested ability of the NAF remains unshaken and unwavering as it continues to carry out its assigned roles.”

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