A NIGERIAN warplane has crashed in Niger, while conducting military operations in neighbouring Mali, and its two pilots were killed, according a statement by the Nigerian Army Monday.
Also, an army source in Niamey said the fighter jet, which was part of Nigeria’s air fleet with an African force battling hardline Islamists in Mali, had suffered a “mechanical” problem.
“A Nigerian Air Force Alpha jet aircraft on a non-combatant mission crashed today at Dargol village…The two pilots on board the fighter jet died,” a report by Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Nigerian defence headquarters as saying in a statement.
The jet is one of four Nigerian aircraft based in Niamey as part of the Africa-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA), it said, adding that the crash was being investigated.
French, Chadian planes and U.S. drones have used the Niamey airport as a base for their operations in Mali.
The 6,000-strong AFISMA has taken over the lead from France in supporting Mali’s army in the battle against Al-Qaeda-linked extremists.
A French-led operation launched in January drove the Islamists from key cities they had seized in northern Mali. But the Islamists have turned to suicide bombings and guerrilla attacks in reclaimed territory.
However, following a UN resolution in April, AFISMA will soon be incorporated into a 12,600-strong peacekeeping force.