By Elohor Igbru
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has tasked the Air Component of Operation THUNDER STRIKE (OPTS) to intensify its air strikes against armed bandits and other criminal elements in Kaduna and surrounding states with a view to ensuring a return of normalcy to troubled parts of the North West and North Central Zones of the Country.
The CAS gave this charge on Tuesday while in Kaduna to assess the progress of the newly launched Operation KASHE MUGU 2, a subsidiary air interdiction operation aimed at neutralizing identified armed bandits’ hideouts in the forests and border areas between Kaduna and Zamfara States.
The CAS, who witnessed the conduct of one of the waves of the attack missions, commended the pilots and support personnel for their efforts and the commendable results so far recorded.
He however urged them to sustain the momentum of operations to ensure that there is no hiding place for the bandits.
“You must continue to work assiduously, in synergy with sister Services and other security agencies, to smoke the criminals out of their enclaves and ensure that they are no longer able to stop law-abiding citizens from pursuing their legitimate aspirations”, he said.
Speaking to the Press after the attack aircraft had returned from the successful air interdiction mission, which resulted in the destruction of a camp and neutralization of several armed bandits at Fadaman Kanauta, Air Marshal Abubakar expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the operation, noting that the air strikes would be sustained to ensure that all identified camps are cleared.
He disclosed that the Air Component would also continue to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions to identify all other camps which, he said, would be similarly taken out.
The CAS noted that the overall objective was to ensure that Nigeria is secured and that no individual or group, whether terrorists or otherwise, undermines Nigeria’s sovereignty or the rights and values that Nigerians hold so dear.
Speaking further, the CAS especially lauded the efforts of the young pilots conducting the missions. He noted that, as a result of the current NAF Administration’s aggressive capacity building efforts, the Service now has a good number of competent young pilots across all its aircraft types, with officers in their twenties and early thirties being captains on the C-130H aircraft fleet as well as on aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet, which was a marked departure from what obtained in the recent past, where Air Commodores and Air Vice Marshals were the only captains on such fleets.
“Its all about capacity building. Once the capacity is there; the opportunity is given for young people to train and acquire the necessary skills, then the sky is the limit and that is what we have seen these young pilots do over the past few years”, he added.
The CAS, who was accompanied on the visit by the Chief of Training and Operations, AVM James Gwani; Chief of Aircraft Engineering, AVM Musibau Olatunji; as well as Chief of Logistics, AVM Mohammed Yakubu, and other senior officers from Headquarters NAF, had earlier been briefed on the conduct of the operation by the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Musa Mukhtar, and the Air Component Commander OPTS, Wing Commander Mohammed Umar.
He also later inspected facilities at the 061 NAF Aeromedical Hospital as well as infrastructure at the Regiment Training Centre Kaduna.