(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 04, 2017 Commander of the Operation Lafiya Dole Major General Ibrahim Attahiru…
FILE - Then-Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru speaks at army headquarters, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Oct. 4, 2017. The army chief was killed May 21, 2021, in a plane crash near the Kaduna airport.

ABUJA, NIGERIA - Nigeria's army chief, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, died in a plane crash Friday on an official visit to the northern state of Kaduna, which has had security challenges in recent months, the presidency said.

The air force said in a statement that its plane crashed near the Kaduna airport and that it was investigating the cause.

The presidency said that in addition to the army general, other military officers died in the crash.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in a presidency statement, described the crash as a "mortal blow … at a time our armed forces are poised to end the security challenges facing the country."

The crash occurred three months after a small Nigerian air force passenger plane went down just outside the Abuja airport following what was said to be an engine failure, killing all seven people on board.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has had a poor air safety record in the past, although it has improved in recent years.

Buhari appointed Attahiru alongside other military chiefs in January after years of mounting criticism over spreading violence by Islamist insurgents and armed gangs.

Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, have waged a decadelong insurgency estimated to have displaced about 2 million people and killed more than 30,000. They want to create states based on their extreme interpretation of Islamic sharia law.