A Nigerian military plane disappeared off the radar near Borno is yet to be found, the Nigerian air force said on Friday.
The Alpha Jet aircraft, NAF475, with pilots Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele disappeared on Wednesday evening.
Nigerian air force statement said the fighter jet had been deployed to provide air support to ground troops, who were under fire from Boko Haram fighters before radar contact was lost.
“We don’t know if there is a crash yet. We remain very hopeful that we will get our pilots alive … we are very optimistic about that, but at the moment we can’t say what has happened to the aircraft,” said Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet.
“We had two other aircraft within the vicinity, so it’s strange to us that it went missing,” he said.
“The aircraft disappeared from radar at about 5:08 p.m on Wednesday — in an area that’s barely 80km out of Borno State. It was on a mission to give fire cover to our troops who were coming under intense fire from Boko Haram insurgents,” Gabkwet added.
Borno is an insurgency troubled state in the country’s northeast region.
The incident came just over a month after an aircraft belonging to the Nigerian air force crashed after take-off from Abuja, killing everyone on board. The plane was on a mission to rescue kidnapped schoolchildren in Niger State, northwest Nigeria.
Boko Haram has increased attacks against the Nigerian military as it tries to regain control of lost territories in pockets of Nigeria’s northeast. Frequent air raids by the Nigerian military have continued to rattle the insurgents, dislodging them from their hideouts.