Nigerian military jet crashes, killing pilot

AP News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 12:22 PM
Nigerian military jet crashes, killing pilot

A Nigerian Air Force fighter jet crashed Tuesday while taking off from a flight school near the northern city of Kano, killing the pilot, officials said.

The plane, one of several Chinese F7 jets purchased by oil-rich Nigeria, failed to lift off from the runway the military flight school shares with Kano's Mallam Aminu International Airport around 12:30 p.m., witnesses said. The plane crashed while still on the airport's ground and immediately exploded.

Air Commodore Yusuf Anas told The Associated Press that the pilot died in the crash. Anas said the plane recently had been brought from an air base in Makurdi.

"The Nigerian Air Force headquarters has already set up an accident investigation panel to unravel the circumstances that led to the accident," Anas said in a statement. "Further details on the crash will be made known as soon as the family of the deceased pilot is informed."

Airport officials postponed some afternoon flights out of Kano, an ancient city in Nigeria's Muslim north, as workers struggled to put out the fire and clear debris.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has one of the biggest militaries in West Africa. Its Air Force has a fleet including fighter jets, transport aircraft and the small jets flown by its president. However, mechanical issues have grounded its planes in the past.

In 2002, a commercial airliner crashed during takeoff from Kano's airport, which sits nestled among homes and businesses in the sprawling ancient city. The airliner crashed into a neighborhood, destroying homes, mosques and a school, killing 145 people. In 1992, a military plane carrying 163 people crashed just after taking off from Lagos.

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Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed to this report.