The mid-air explosion of a Nigerian military jet shown in a video released by Boko Haram was faked, according to a CNN analysis.
Conflicting reports had emerged in Nigeria over the video of a downed plane, after the country’s air force disputed claims from Boko Haram that its militants shot down a jet.
Boko Haram released a seven-minute video Friday, showing the Nigerian Alpha jet flying above its fighters. Then there is a mid-air explosion.
When analyzed closely, however, the explosion includes a thin smoke trail immediately above the plane – at odds with its trajectory. The smoke trail and the shape and color of the fireball are identical to a mid-air explosion of a helicopter over the Syrian city of Ma’arrat al-Nu’man, near Idlib, in 2012.
The video clip, published by the SITE Intelligence Group and circulating across Nigerian media, shows multiple fighters shooting into the air before a blast lights up the sky as a plane ignites into flames and falls to the ground. The clip then cuts to fighters standing around what appears to be the wreckage of the jet.
The video was not picked up by official ISIS outlets. Boko Haram is an ISIS affiliate.
The footage shows a plane with the inscription “NAF 475,” the same ID for the aircraft which the Nigerian Air Force reported as going off radar Wednesday with two pilots.
Military analysts said Boko Haram is not known to possess the sort of weapons that could shoot down a fast-flying jet at altitude, such as ground-to-air missiles. Video of the wreckage also indicates that much of it was found in a confined area, which would be inconsistent with a mid-air explosion.
“It is evident that most parts of the video were deliberately doctored to give the false impression that the aircraft was shot down” when it was “obviously an air accident,” the NAF said in a statement posted on Facebook Friday.
The NAF called the edited clip “false propaganda” and urged Nigerians “to ignore the contents of the videos making the rounds until all investigations as to how the aircraft crashed are completed.”
The NAF reported the plane missing on Wednesday, with two pilots on board.
A spokesperson told CNN Thursday the fighter jet had been deployed near Borno State in northeastern Nigeria to provide air support to ground troops, who were under fire from Boko Haram fighters before radar contact was lost.
“The cause of the crash as well as the whereabouts of the 2 pilots remain unknown. The pilots are Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele,” the NAF said earlier Friday.
The video at one point shows a charred body. Then separately it shows what appears to be a patch laying on the ground, displaying John Abolarinwa’s name.
Boko Haram has increased attacks against the Nigerian military as it tries to regain control of lost territories in pockets of the country’s northeast.
Frequent air raids by the Nigerian military have continued to rattle the insurgents – dislodging them from their hideouts.