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7 Dead In Nigerian Air Force Crash After Reported Engine Failure

An investigation is underway to determine what caused a small Nigerian air force passenger plane to crash Sunday, killing all seven people on board.

The Beechcraft King Air 350i aircraft crashed while attempting to return to the airport in the capital city Abuja after reporting engine failure, according to a tweet by Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, an air force spokesman. The twin turboprop plane was en route to the central Nigerian city of Minna, roughly 60 miles northwest of Abuja.

The air force has not provided the names of those killed in the crash.

Photos from the area show a charred and broken fuselage laying in a field.

A witness described the moments leading up to the crash.

"As he (the plane's pilot) was going down, he struggled to go back to the airport, at the end he just crashed," Alaba Lawal told Reuters. "I just saw the whole thing explode, fire and smoke together. ... When I got there I saw dead bodies on the ground."

Another witness, Olugbenga Alaade, said, "Everybody there was screaming full of disbelief." Alaade, a government employee who said he has worked at the airport for nine years and who saw the crash, told The Associated Press that it had been at least a decade since a plane has crashed at that airport.

Daramola said first responders were at the scene and he urged the public to remain calm and await the results of the investigation.

But patience appeared in short supply. There were multiple tweets criticizing the government and the military for its poor maintenance record and casting doubt on a transparent investigation.

Many tweets also commiserated with the families of the deceased.

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Corrected: February 21, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Beechcraft King Air B350i as a jet. In fact, the aircraft is a twin turboprop.
Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.