“The NAF helicopter that unfortunately crashed in Niger today was not a fighter aircraft, as speculated in some quarters. It is used for evacuation missions of the military personnel,” a source told Bellnews.
The Nigerian Air Force, NAF, helicopter which crashed on Monday in Niger State, was conveying to a military hospital in Kaduna State, some troops wounded in a gun battle with terrorists, bellnews exclusively gathered from military sources.
“The NAF helicopter that unfortunately crashed in Niger today was not a fighter aircraft, as speculated in some quarters. It is used for evacuation missions of the military personnel,” a source told PRNigeria.
Contrary to reports that the NAF helicopter was gunned down by armed bandits in the Shiroro local government area of the state, the ill-fated aircraft was on evacuation mission, airlifting injured troops who had engaged terrorists at some communities in Rafi, Wushishi, and Lavun local government areas.
Credible sources told bellnews that the terrorists had raided several villages in the aforementioned Niger local council areas, killed some locals, and also rustled their cattle between Sunday and Monday.
It was gathered that the air component and ground troops had responded to distress calls put by members of the raided communities, and engaged the terrorists.
Though airstrikes and the intervention by ground troops halted the violent activities of the terrorists, some soldiers lost their lives, and others were injured, together with local vigilantes.
An intelligence source told PRNigeria that the bandits mostly on motorcycles were raiding some communities when the military responded.
“It was quite a hectic day in the counterterrorism campaigns as the bandits were raiding different villages simultaneously and rustling hundreds of cattle.
“We responded decisively against the bandits at the Jiwawa axis, while we also another group at a community in Wushisi LGA early in the morning.
“Surprisingly, while the operations were going on, we got more distress calls that the bandits had infiltrated other communities in Lavun and Rafi local governments.
“Troops and vigilantes that were mobilized exchanged gunfires on their routes including at Zungeru Kontagora Road.
“The operations were very successful before the crash of the helicopter which was on a casualty evacuation mission after picking injured troops in Niger on its way to a military hospital in Kaduna.”
Bellnews reported on Monday that NAF confirmed the crash of its aircraft while en route to Niger State.
Confirming the incident in a statement, the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet said the aircraft was on a casualty evacuation mission when it crashed, adding that efforts were ongoing to rescue the crew and passengers of the aircraft.
Gabkwet said the aircraft departed Zungeru Primary School en route to Kaduna but was later discovered to have crashed in a village in the Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
The statement read, “A Nigerian Air Force MI-171 Helicopter on a casualty evacuation mission crashed today, August 14, 2023, at about 1.1.00 pm Chukuba Village in Niger State.
“The aircraft had departed Zungeru Primary School en route Kaduna but was later discovered to have crashed near Chukuba Village in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
“Efforts are currently ongoing to rescue the crew and passengers on board the helicopter, while preliminary investigations have commenced to determine the probable cause of the crash.”
He, however, did not state the number of passengers or crew members on the aircraft.