Conflicting reports emerged in Nigeria about a video of the downing of a plane, after the country’s air force contested Boko Haram’s claims that its fighters shot down a plane.
On Friday, Boko Haram released a seven-minute video, showing the Nigerian Alpha plane flying over its fighters. Then there was an explosion in the air.
However, when analyzing the blast more closely, the blast includes a fine trail of smoke directly above the plane – counteracting its trajectory. The smoke trail and the shape and color of the fireball match the mid-air explosion of a helicopter over the Syrian city of Maarat al-Numan, near Idlib, in 2012.
The video, published by the SITE Intelligence Group and spread across Nigerian media, shows several fighters firing in the air before an explosion illuminates the sky as an aircraft burst into flames and falls to the ground. Then the clip is transmitted to fighters standing around what appears to be the wreckage.
The video was not taken by official ISIS media. Boko Haram is an ISIS affiliate.
The footage shows an aircraft with the inscription “NAF 475”, the same aircraft identification number that the Nigerian Air Force reported going off the radar on Wednesday with two pilots.
Military analysts said Boko Haram is not known to have the kind of weapons that can shoot down a fast-flying jet plane at altitude, such as surface-to-air missiles. A video clip of the debris also indicates that a large portion of it was found in a confined area, which is inconsistent with an atmospheric explosion.
“It is clear that most parts of the video were deliberately tampered with to give the false impression that the plane was shot down” when it was “clearly an air accident,” the Air Force said in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday.
The National Air Force described the edited clip as “false propaganda” and urged Nigerians to “ignore the contents of the video clips about the tours until all investigations into how the plane crashed have been completed.”
The National Air Force said the plane went missing on Wednesday with two pilots on board.
A CNN spokesman told CNN on Thursday that the fighter jet was deployed near Borno State in northeastern Nigeria to provide air support to ground forces, which came under fire from Boko Haram fighters before losing contact with the radar.
“The cause of the crash, as well as the whereabouts of the pilots, are still unknown,” the Air Force said earlier on Friday. “The two pilots are Lieutenant John Apollarino and Flying Lieutenant Ibiakbo Shabelle.”
The video clip at one point shows a charred corpse and then separately shows what appears to be a patch on the ground, displaying the name John Apollarino.
Boko Haram has increased its attacks against the Nigerian army as it tries to regain control of lost territories in enclaves in the northeast of the country.
Frequent airstrikes by the Nigerian military continued to shake the rebels – and drive them from their hideouts.