Last week a military plane allegedly carrying foreign mercenaries was shot down by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in Borno state. However, this news did not make headlines.
Investigations by Sahara Reporters threw a little more light on the incident. Below, read what we know and what we do not know at the moment.
1. Who was on board?
Five Ukrainian mercenaries and a Nigerian pilot were allegedly on board. The foreign soldiers did not survive, while the pilot reportedly suffered critical injuries and might be alive.
The Embassy of Ukraine in Abuja did not comment on the issue, and recommended enquirers to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
2. What was the purpose of the flight?
The aircraft was most likely a surveillance plane that was carrying out reconnaissance and photographing over Sambisa forest, a notorious stronghold for the Islamist Boko Haram sect.
3. Do the terrorists really have anti-air capabilities?
The plane was most-likely hit by a ZU-23-2 twin anti-air gun. It is capable of engaging low-flying targets at a range of 2.5 km. Terrorists possess many of them, and can shoot a plane easily, especially during take off and landing.
4. What the Nigerian military have to say
The spokesperson of the Nigerian Air Force, Comodore Alonge, said he was not aware of the crash.
The spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Colonel S.K Usman, promised to reply later, but he had not done it for more than 48 hours after the initial request.
Two other officials at the Defence headquarters in Abuja refused to discuss the alleged air crash.
According to the report by Sahara Reporters, the Nigerian military maintains an air unit composed of mercenaries and foreign specialists of all kinds. This unit is distinct from the NAF, to the point that the two are often in conflict over air operations in the north east.