Nigeria’s army chief and other officers were killed on Friday evening when their military plane crashed in bad weather in the country’s north, officials said.
Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru was appointed chief of army staff by President Muhammadu Buhari in January as part of a shake-up of Nigeria’s military command to better fight surging violence and a more than decade-long extremist insurgency.
The Nigerian Army regrets to announce the passing away of its Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru. The sad event occurred following an air crash in Kaduna which also claimed the lives of 10 other officers including the crew.
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) May 21, 2021
His death came amid reports that the leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremist group, Abubakar Shekau, had been seriously wounded or possibly killed after clashes with a rival faction allied to ISIS.
President Buhari, a former general first elected in 2015, has been under increasing pressure from allies and critics alike over his government’s handling of mounting security problems in Africa’s most populous country.
Buhari said the crash “was one mortal blow to our underbelly, at a time our armed forces are poised to end the security challenges facing the country”.
The army spokesman said on Twitter that 10 other officers including the plane’s crew also died in the crash in Kaduna state.
The plane crashed at Kaduna International Airport “due to inclement weather”, the armed forces said.
Nigeria’s military has been battling the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast since 2009, a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced about two million.
Attahiru led an offensive against Shekau in the northeast in 2017.
Local intelligence sources said Shekau was seriously wounded earlier in the week when ISIS-allied rival fighters attacked his stronghold in the Sambisa forest in the northeastern state of Borno.