Bandits in Nigeria have shot down an air force plane in a rare case of a military jet being brought down by a criminal gang in the country.
The pilot had finished a raid against kidnappers when he came under intense fire, the Nigerian Air Force said.
Flight Lt Abayomi Dairo ejected and used “survival instincts” to avoid capture and find shelter, before rejoining his comrades.
The attack happened on the border of the northern Zamfara and Kaduna states.
Armed gangs – referred to locally as “bandits” – have been blamed for a spate of recent kidnappings in this part of north-western Nigeria.
Students and schoolchildren have been targeted – more than 1,000 have been kidnapped since December. Most have since been freed, reportedly after ransoms were paid, but some have been killed.
In recent days, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the military to do all it takes to flush out criminals in the states of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna.
The Nigerian Air Force said it had mounted day and night air operations against the bandits in collaboration with ground forces. It was in one of the operations that the fighter jet was brought down on Sunday.
“Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralised and several of their hideouts destroyed,” the Nigerian Air Force said in a statement.
While there have been several military plane crashes this year, this is the first reported case of armed gangs downing one.
There was shock in May in Nigeria when the Army chief, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, was killed in a plane crash alongside 10 other officers.
Back in April another Alpha Jet crashed in Borno state – one of the areas where Boko Haram militants are most active. Reports that it was shot down by the jihadists have been denied by the military.
Before that in February, a military aircraft in Abuja that was bound for Niger state to search for kidnapped schoolchildren there crashed – killing all seven people on board.
The country has bought 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft from the US at a cost of $496m (£350m) – and is set to receive the first six this month.