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Nigeria’s top military commander dies in plane crash

Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru has died in a plane crash near the town of Kaduna, north of the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

The Nigerian Air Force confirmed that one of its planes crashed near the Kaduna International Airport late on Friday. Attahiru was among the eight people on the aircraft, which was carrying a group of high-ranking military commanders to the town of Kaduna, some 180 kilometers north of Abuja.

The reasons behind the incident are still unknown. “The immediate cause of the crash is still being ascertained,” Air Force spokesman Edward Gabkwet said in a statement. 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, has confirmed the death of Attahiru, calling the slain military officials “heroes who paid the ultimate price for peace and security in the land.”

Expressing condolences to the families of the victims, the Nigerian leader said that the incident dealt “one mortal blow to our [Nigeria’s] underbelly,” vowing that the deaths of the commanders “will not be in vain.”

Attahiru took his post following a major military reshuffle in January. Earlier, he was commanding the 82nd Infantry Division in the Nigerian Army. Buhari appointed Attahiru and some other top military officials amid ongoing violent insurgencies in Nigeria’s north, where the army is facing Boko Haram Islamists as well as other extremist groups affiliated with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and separatists.

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