The helicopter crashed while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion during a combat mission against Boko Haram. Five occupants, two pilots and three crew members died in the crash.
NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, gave the names of the deceased personnel as Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob, pilot in command; Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas, co-pilot; Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim, flight technician; Lance Corporal Adamu Nura, gunner and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael, gunner.
Daramola in a statement said: “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of the five crew members who were on board the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Mi-35M helicopter which crashed in combat yesterday, January 2, 2019, while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak in Borno State.”
The tweet read: “A Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Helicopter was lost in combat while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion at Damasak in Northern Borno State. The mission was part of the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the North East.
“The incident, occurred about 7:45 pm today, 2 January 2019. Details of the cause of the crash are still scanty. As soon as the details of the crash are known, they will be made available to the public.”
Hours earlier, Daramola had announced that the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE destroyed a building being used as meeting venue by Boko Haram insurgents near Baga, also in Borno.
“The attack was conducted on January 1, 2019, after series of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions confirmed that the building was being used as an assembly point by the terrorists. Consequently, the ATF dispatched a NAF Alpha Jet aircraft to attack the building,” he had said, adding that a “direct hit was recorded on the target leading to significant damage to the structure and neutralisation of the occupants”.
He said the bodies of the deceased personnel had been recovered and taken to Maiduguri.
“These gallant, fallen heroes made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our fatherland, for which the NAF, and indeed the entire nation, owe them an unending debt of gratitude.
“The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf of all officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserates with the families of the five fallen heroes and prays that the Almighty grants their souls peaceful repose.
“The CAS was in Maiduguri today, January 3, 2019, to convey the condolences of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, to the personnel of the Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE over the unfortunate loss. “While in Maiduguri, the CAS also received a condolence visit from the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.
“The NAF appreciates the overwhelming support shown by the general public to the service over the sad incident. We continue to solicit your understanding and support as we daily strive to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.”