KDF yet to ascertain Al-Shabaab claims over the fate of pilot Jonathan Otongo

NAIROBI, KENYA: The Kenya Defence Forces cannot verify claims by Al-Shabaab that they had buried the missing pilot of a jet that crashed in Somalia, officials have said.

Al-Shabaab claimed on its radio station that it had buried Major Jonathan Otongo at a secret grave after the crash. Otongo was the only one on board the plane when it crashed on Thursday.

KDF Spokesman Colonel David Obonyo said Monday it is unlikely the terror group buried the body.

"You know them. They could have displayed the said body and even shown where the grave is if indeed they had it. We still maintain the pilot is missing," said Obonyo.

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He said KDF personnel and those of the Somalia National Army are still combing the crash site looking for the pilot," he said.

Major Otongo is a celebrated pilot and was honoured last year by the President. KDF said the aircraft went down after developing technical problems in an area controlled by Al-Shabaab, who were the first to arrive at the scene of the crash and set the aircraft on fire.

It was one of two planes returning from a mission. "The two aircraft were from a successful mission where they destroyed Aarare, an Al-Shaabab base that had been confirmed by intelligence as an operation and logistics base. Otongo made a distress call to his wingman – the pilot in the second aircraft, before crash.

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KDF Al Shabaab Jonathan Otongo