Nigeria: NAF Helicopter On Evacuation Mission Crashes in Shiroro

A Nigerian Air Force (NAF) helicopter evacuating the bodies of 12 security operatives killed by bandits in Niger State has crashed in Chukuba, Shiroro local government area of Niger State.

A source hinted that it was not clear whether the helicopter crashed as a result of the bandits’ attacks as it was learnt that the bandits were armed with sophisticated weapons that could bring helicopter down.

A villager who preferred anonymity told LEADERSHIP that when the incident occurred the village was already abandoned as the bandits had severally attacked the villages around the area.

A government official said the government of Niger State has received a brief on the crash but refused to disclose the cause of the crash.

It was learnt that the helicopter had earlier arrived at Zungeru in Wushishi local government area of the state to evacuate the bodies of the operatives killed by bandits as well as those injured for better medical attention.

It was however gathered that few minutes after returning to base the helicopter crashed with more casualties recorded.

Military sources however said the helicopter took off from Kaduna Airfield to Minna but lost contact with control towers from both Kaduna and Minna.

“The helicopter took off from Kaduna Military Airfield to Minna but no contact at all with Minna Tower and Kaduna Tower can’t reach the helicopter,” he said.

The director of public relations and information, Air Cdre Edward Gabkwet in a statement said the helicopter was on casualty evacuation mission before the incident happened at a location in Shiroro local government area.

He said the aircraft had departed Zungeru Primary School enroute Kaduna but was later discovered to have crashed near Chukuba Village in Shiroro local government area of Niger State.

He did not disclose the number of passengers on board, however, he said efforts were ongoing to rescue the crew and passengers.

The statement reads, “A Nigerian Air Force MI-171 Helicopter on a casualty evacuation mission crashed today, August 14, 2023 at about 1.00pm near Chukuba Village in Niger State. The aircraft had departed Zungeru Primary School enroute 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.”

It was learnt the 12 security operatives mostly military personnel were killed by bandits between Sunday and yesterday morning in both Kundu Via Zungeru and Chukuba in Shiroro local government areas of Niger State.

LEADERSHIP gathered that bandits had been operating around Shiroro and Wushishi local government areas of the state in the past few days but have been resisted by the operatives both on air and land severally.

It was learnt that at Chukuba, the bandits shot at a helicopter on surveillance but the number of casualties could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report.

It was gathered that 12 of the operatives were however killed in an ambush Sunday night and Monday morning at Kundu.

A source hinted that the security operatives were trying to block the bandits on their route at Kundu Via Zungeru while trying to cross over from Akare but the bandits killed the operatives while five vigilantes were injured in the process.

A security source hinted that the bandits in their hundreds tried to cross over with rustled cattle but were blocked.

The source added that the bandits who were armed with sophisticated weapons retreated and ambushed the security operatives and overwhelmed them with their numbers.

An eyewitness account revealed that “so far, we have counted 12 corpses of the operatives deposited at the Zungeru General Hospital, where the injured vigilante group are also receiving medical attention.”

A villager who preferred anonymity told LEADERSHIP on phone that they were informed of the attack so they left the villages at the weekend to Zungeru to evade the bandits’ attacks.

The police public relations officer Wasiu Abiodun could not be reached but government sources who preferred anonymity confirmed that the casualties were mainly military officers.

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