Boko Haram militant group has claimed it shot down a fighter jet that went missing earlier this week and which the air force said may have crashed, according to a militant video released on Friday.
The Alpha light attack jet was on a mission to support troops fighting militants in northeastern Borno state when it lost radar contact on Wednesday, the Nigerian Air Force said.
The military has been battling jihadists in the northeast of the country for more than a decade and has recently been fighting them in their stronghold in Sambisa forest in Borno state.
The video, which could not be verified by AFP, was released on a Boko Haram social media channel showing a militant standing on what the group claims are the wreckage of the jet. It shows the Nigerian flag and number NAF 475 on its fuselage.
“Nigeria air force jet fighter… was sent to Sambisa to fight the Mujahideen,” the militant said.
The air force said on Friday that the jet may have crashed. It said the cause of the crash and the whereabouts of the two crew onboard were unknown.
“Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing by NAF surveillance aircraft as well as NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops on ground,” its statement said.
“At this point, the NAF is not ruling out anything regarding the incident. It however remains hopeful that the crew would soon be found and rescued.”
It did not respond immediately to a request for an update on the search.
In 2014, Boko Haram said it shot down another Nigerian air force jet and showed a video claiming to have beheaded its pilot.
Since the Islamist insurgency broke out in 2009, the conflict has killed around 36,000 people in the region and displaced some two million from their homes.
The violence has also spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) split from Boko Haram in 2016 and has since become a prominent threat, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping civilians.
At the beginning of the year, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new military commanders after coming under pressure to better tackle insecurity and inject new life into the armed forces.