|Grounded Chad-bound plane.... Photo Credit: Madquest @Mansur295 via twitter|
The Russian government has denied that the aircraft, filled with military hardware, arrested in Nigeria Saturday has any link with Russia.
The Eastern European country said through its embassy in Nigeria that the plane wasn’t Russian and had no link with Russia.
“According to the information of the Embassy, the detained in Kano plane, allegedly carrying military hardware on board, is not Russian,” the Russia Embassy in Nigeria, tweeted via its handle @RusEmbNigeria late Saturday.
Media reports had suggested Saturday that the aircraft, now being detained at the Aminu Kano Airport in Kano, originated from Russia.
The plane, loaded with arms, bullet proof vests and a chopper, is believed to be on its way to neighbouring Chad, when it was intercepted by Nigerian authorities.
Although it confirmed the aircraft was being held and investigated, the military did not say where it originated from and where it was headed.
“An Antonov Cargo aircraft carrying some military hardware was arrested at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in the early hours of Saturday 6th Dec. 2014,” the military tweeted via its handle [@DefenceInfoNG].
“Investigation is ongoing to determine the content and origin of the aircraft. Further details will be made as soon as the investigation is completed.”
Security operatives at the Kano Airport had seized the plane when it landed at the facility at about 2a.m. Saturday as a result of technical problems.
Crew members of the airplane were immediately detained while investigations continued, officials said.
“Security has since been beefed up at the airport in order to ensure proper investigation,” the officials added.
The General Manager, Communications, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Yakubu Datti, confirmed the seizure of the plane.
He said the pilot sought permission to land at the airport after the plane developed problems.
“The plane had a technical problem and the pilot sought (for) permission to land at the airport’’, he said.
Mr. Datti said security agencies had since commenced investigation into the matter.
Security sources told PREMIUM TIMES the plane was travelling to N’djamena, the capital of Chad.
PR Nigeria, an agency known for distributing press statements on behalf of the Nigerian military, later circulated a statement saying the aircraft contained “a chopper tucked in it”.
“… Intense investigation is ongoing including using diplomatic means to unravel the mission of the aircraft, its origin and destination,” the statement said.
This is the third time since 2009 that planes loaded with arms would be arrested in Kano, our correspondent says.
The detained planes were later released after investigations.
The destination of the latest aircraft has however raised concerns amid increasing worries in Nigeria over Chad’s alleged role in the Boko Haram insurgency plaguing Nigeria’s northeast.