Home News Sabotage Possibly Involved In COAS Attahiru’s Suspicious Air Crash – Rtd Gen Ali-Keffi
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Sabotage Possibly Involved In COAS Attahiru’s Suspicious Air Crash – Rtd Gen Ali-Keffi

Former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Danjuma Ali-Keffi (rtd), over the weekend called on President Bola Tinubu to investigate the crash that killed former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru. 

Ali-Keffi made this known in an interview with THISDAY, where he stated that the crash was linked to terror sponsors and was “suspicious”.  He said the chief of army staff alongside 11 senior officers died in the plane crash but the matter was swept under the carpet and the full report of the investigation was not made known. 

He revealed that the late Attahiru devised the strategy to end terrorism in the North which included the infiltration of terror groups and the instigation of crisis among the terror leaders which led to the killing of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, by rival terror group, Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP)

He said part of the strategy was to cut off the oxygen of terrorism including funding and logistics, and also take down terror financiers. 

“The Operation Service Wide (OSW), a presidential task force, which I was commanding at the time of Late General Attahiru’s headship of the Nigerian Army, had as its primary mandate to dismantle the terrorism financing network in order to aid the fight against terrorism and insurgency.

“Late General Attahiru appointed me as GOC 1 Div (whilst still being the Commander of OSW) to enable me to effectively discharge the task (OSW). It is important to note that OSW was not just an investigative outfit but also carried out covert operations to capture, or kill insurgents’ leaders and key fighters in the field; destroy insurgent camps and facilities, as well support the military and other security agencies’ operations.

“Furthermore, having command of 1 Div served as cover for me to carry out the task (OSW) without attracting unnecessary attention or making people aware of the existence of the outfit (OSW),” he said

Ali-Keffi said the COAS travel plans and aircraft were changed even when the defense minister and the presidency knew about his travel itinerary prior to that day.

 “About 2100 hrs on Thursday 20 May 2021, I spoke on phone with the Chief of Staff (COS) to the late COAS regarding their impending trip to Kaduna the following day (21 May 2021). I had earlier spoken with General Attahiru on the same issue. We ended our conversation on the note that the late COAS and entourage would come by flight at about 1000 hrs the following day.

“About 0630 hrs the following morning, I called the COS to the late COAS to confirm if their travel plan was as we discussed the night before, as I needed to make arrangements for the Mosque that the COAS would attend Jummu’at (Friday) prayers.

“The COS informed me that there was a change of plan. He said after we finished speaking last night, they received a message that the late COAS was to attend a meeting either at the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD) office or at the Presidential Villa at about 1000 hrs on Friday 21 May 2021 and that the late COAS was to attend in person and not send a representative.

“It is important to note that the late COAS’ trip to Kaduna was part of his visit to Zaria to attend the Passing Out Parade at the Depot NA slated for Saturday 22 May 2021. It is worth noting that the movement of service chiefs out of station (Abuja) is with the prior knowledge of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), and the presidency,” Ali-Keffi said.

He questioned the insistence for the late COAS to attend the meeting in person and also why his flight was delayed for about an hour before take off. “So, why was a meeting scheduled for about the same time that the late COAS was to have departed for (or arrived) Kaduna and why the insistence that he (COAS) should not be represented?

“In any case, the COS informed me that in view of the meeting, they would depart the Flag House (official residence of the COAS) at about 1530 hrs (after attending the meeting and also after the Jummu’ at prayers) for the airport.

“They expected to arrive at the airport at about 1600 hrs, board the aircraft at about 1610 – 1615 hrs and depart for Kaduna. At about 1600 hrs, I was informed that they had arrived at the Presidential Wing of the Airport. I then set off from the Stallion House (official residence of the GOC) with my entourage in a convoy and arrived at the Air Force Base at about 1615 hrs.

“For reasons that I cannot understand till today, the flight was delayed for over an hour and did not take off until 1730 hrs or so. The reason for the delay, as I was informed, was that there was an issue with the aircraft that was initially assigned for the mission (to convey the COAS and his entourage) and that it had to be changed.” 

Ali-Keffi said he suggested that the flight be cancelled because of an earlier meteorological alert of rainfall and storm in Kaduna.

“I even suggested that they should advise Abuja of the weather condition with a view to having the flight cancelled. At that point, I was informed that the aircraft was airborne (at about 1745 hrs). I became concerned as to whether the aircraft would be able to land at the airport in such a heavy rainfall storm, the rain had started falling then.”

The former general revealed that the debris of the aircraft indicated a mid-air explosion and wondered if the plane was sabotaged and also what the report of the Air Safety and Accident Investigation Bureau says.

“When we got to the vicinity of the airport, there was a thunderous sound, which I thought was the sound of thunder. We had earlier sighted what I believed was the aircraft descending to land on the runway. When we turned the bend to enter the tarmac, the thought in my mind was that the aircraft had touched down and was taxing to the parking area.

“I couldn’t see any aircraft on the runway. I frantically looked around and by the far side of the runway there was a fireball. It was the aircraft conveying General Attahiru! We got out of the vehicles, crossed the runway and approached the burning aircraft. Fire fighters were on hand to put out the blaze. At some point we had to pull back due to the fear of exploding cylinders.

“We later recovered the corpses of the 10 passengers on board the ill-fated plane far from where the plane wreckage was. Apparently, their bodies, which were on fire, were flung from the aircraft before it came down. Furthermore, the aircraft or what was left of it, at least what I could recollect, was on a relatively flat grassland.

“There was no crater. This was indicative of a mid-air explosion. So, what caused the aircraft to explode? I wonder what the Air Safety and Accident Investigation Bureau report says about the incident.”

“Was the flight deliberately delayed in order to be caught up in the rainstorm? Was the aircraft sabotaged, which caused it to explode mid-air? Was the explosion caused by explosives? Was a bomb planted in the aircraft or contained in a parcel, which a passenger unknowingly or knowingly carried?”

The ill-fated crash involving a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) plane occurred near the Kaduna International Airport due to bad weather.

It will be recalled that Attahiru, the former COAS was on his way to Kaduna on 20th, May 2021 to attend a passing-out parade for army recruits. The Nigerian Army had listed the officers, who died in the crash, to include Attahiru, Brig Gen. M. I. Abdulkadir, Brig. Gen. Olayinka, Brig. Gen. Kuliya, Maj. L.A. Hayat, Maj. Hamza, and Sgt. Umar. While the crew members were Flt. Lt. T.O. Asaniyi, Flt. Lt., A.A. Olufade, Sgt. Adesina, and ACM Oyedepo.

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