ABUJA, Nigeria—The seven personnel of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) who died in a fatal plane crash in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Sunday were close to discovering the location of dozens of students abducted by gunmen from their school in north-central Nigeria last week, two senior military sources told The Daily Beast.
The crew—led by Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama, the aircraft captain, and Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo, the co-pilot—had been in Minna, the capital of Nigeria’s north-central Niger state, for days conducting intelligence gathering missions in connection with concerted efforts to secure the release of 42 people, including 27 students. The group was abducted last Wednesday, when gunmen in military uniforms raided the Government Science College in Kagara, killing one student in the process.
On Sunday, the officers received intelligence regarding the location of the abductees. According to the two military sources, they quickly flew to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja to refuel their Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft. They were on their way back to Minna when the NAF said the plane reported engine failure and crashed as it attempted to return to Abuja, killing everyone on board.