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Nigerian military drone attack kills 85 civilians in error

06-12-2023

ABUJA: A Nigerian military attack that used drones to target rebels instead killed at least 85 civilians gathered for a religious celebration, authorities said Monday.

The attack was the latest in recent errant bombings of residents in Nigeria’s troubled regions; between February 2014 when a Nigerian military aircraft dropped a bomb on Daglun in Borno state killing 20 civilians and September 2022, there were at least 14 documented incidences of such bombings in residential areas.

The attack on Sunday night in Tudun Biri village of Kaduna state’s Igabi council area took place as Muslims gathered there to observe the holiday celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Kaduna Governor Uba Sani said civilians were “mistakenly killed and many others were wounded” by a drone “targeting terrorists and bandits”.

The National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement on Tuesday that “85 dead bodies have so far been buried while search is still ongoing”.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s Nigeria office said 120 people were killed in the attack, citing reports of its workers and volunteers in the area.

“Many of them were children [and] more dead bodies are being discovered,” Isa Sanusi, the group’s director in Nigeria, told media.

At least 50 bodies were recovered, according to Igabi resident Mustapha Rufai. “They said they mistakenly threw a bomb on them,” he said.

Extremist and rebel attacks have ravaged parts of Nigeria’s northwest and central regions. The country’s forces frequently target the hideouts of armed groups with aerial bombardment but have sometimes bombed villagers.

The groups, known as bandits, have raided villages, attacked an air force fighter jet and a train, and kidnapped people of all ages, including children, for ransom.

The latest bombing caused outrage among citizens, reminding many of the rampant allegations of human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces that have raised concerns from Western allies, including the United States.

The head of the Nigerian army division in charge of operations in Kaduna was quoted by the state government as saying during a security meeting on Monday that the drone operation was a routine one.

“The Nigerian army was on a routine mission against terrorists but inadvertently [its actions] affected members of the community,” a statement issued by the Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Security quoted Major-General Valentine Okoro, head of the army division, as saying.

“Search-and-rescue efforts are still ongoing, as dozens of wounded victims have been evacuated” to hospital for treatment, Kaduna Security Commissioner Samuel Aruwan said. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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