Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Dies in Air Force Plane Crash

Nigeria’s chief of army staff died in an air force plane crash, four months after being appointed to the post.

Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Attahiru, 54, was killed along with 10 others including aides and crew when the aircraft they were traveling in crashed in the northern state of Kaduna, the Nigerian army said in a statement on Twitter on Saturday.

The loss of personnel and equipment are a setback to the government as it struggles to deal with widespread insecurity in Africa’s biggest oil-producing nation. The country is facing a decade-long war against Islamist insurgents in the northeast, a worsening conflict between nomadic cattle herders and crop farmers in the central and southern regions, and a separatist rebellion in the southeast.

“This crash is one mortal blow to our underbelly, at a time our armed forces are poised to end the security challenges facing the country,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Twitter.

Attahiru was appointed chief of staff in January, when Buhari replaced the heads of the nation’s armed forces.

READ: Nigeria’s Buhari Yields to Pressure, Replaces Army Chiefs

The crash late on Friday is the third incident involving a Nigerian Air Force aircraft this year.

In February, a King Air 350 military jet crashed in Abuja, the capital, killing all seven crew members, while in March another military plane went off radar during a mission against insurgents in northern Nigeria. The aircraft is yet to be found.

“The immediate cause of the crash is still being ascertained,” Edward Gabkwet, an air force spokesman, said of the latest incident.

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