KANO, Nigeria – Nigeria has seized an aircraft loaded with at least one military helicopter and heavy weapons bound for Chad that made an unscheduled landing at Kano airport in northern Nigeria, airport and security officials said Sunday.
Five Ukrainian crew members were detained, said Nigerian security agents, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. The flight crew said the plane was flying from Bangui in Central African Republic to N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, said the security agents. Kano is far northwest of that air route.
Nigeria's airport authority confirmed Sunday that a Russian-made Antonov transport plane was seized Saturday, apparently after it made an emergency landing because it was running out of fuel.
The plane carried one helicopter, according to PR Nigeria, a public relations company hired by the government. But security officers said the cargo included two helicopters, rocket launchers and machine-guns.
An "intense investigation is ongoing including using diplomatic means to unravel the mission of the aircraft, its origin and destination," PR Nigeria said.
Chad has thousands of troops in Bangui, as part of an African Union peacekeeping force.
Nigeria has had its own controversies about acquiring helicopter gunships to fight an Islamic uprising in the northeast. South Africa in September and October seized and froze some $15 million in cash and bank transfers with which Nigerian officials intended to buy helicopters.