People and rescuers gather at the site where a Nigerian air force plane crashed while approaching the Abuja airport runway on Sunday
Lagos, Nigeria CNN  — 

Nigeria’s airforce has said its plane, which crashed shortly after take-off from Abuja airport on Sunday morning – killing everyone on board – was on a mission to rescue the schoolchildren kidnapped last week.

A spokesman told CNN the aircraft was on surveillance operations in Niger State as part of efforts to rescue at least 42 schoolchildren and staff members taken by gunmen from the Government Science School Kagara last Wednesday. One student died during the attack.

Air Vice-Marshal Ibikunle Daramola told CNN on Monday afternoon that the air force had donated the military plane to a joint task force coordinating the rescue operation in Kagara.

“The rescue effort is being coordinated by a multi-agency team… the crashed aircraft was part of the air force’s contribution to the rescue mission,” he added.

Daramola told CNN that the airforce would continue to support the rescue operation.

He added that all families of the personnel have been informed, and an investigation launched.

The ongoing rescue efforts followed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the armed forces and police to ensure all captives are rescued.