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Children, women, IDPs… hundreds killed by accidental military airstrikes in 6 years

Children, women, IDPs… hundreds killed by accidental military airstrikes in 6 years
December 05
19:52 2023

Picture this: Some little children were playing in the open space in their compound in a faraway village in northern Nigeria. The previous day, there was an attack on their community by armed bandits, but they survived it. They lived. Their parents told them that the military had been informed and soldiers were on the way to wipe out the insurgents.

So, when they saw fighter jets hovering above them, they paused their play and looked up, cheering and waving at the aircraft. The buzzing sounds dwindled and faded away, only for the jets to return and rain bullets on the same children who were cheering a while back. Then, bombs dropped from the sky, and the playground was engulfed in smoke and littered with tiny pieces of bodies. Legs here, heads there. Their last memory was that their saviour had arrived.

Own goal. Accidental bombing. Miscalculated airstrikes. Intelligence mishap. Airforce misfiring.

Whatever elevated linguistic rendition is chosen to describe these horror-filled incidents, it does not douse the fact that the Nigerian military is leaving a trail of innocent blood and carcasses in its fight against insurgents.

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Since 2017, over 300 civilians have been reportedly killed in accidental airstrikes carried out by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) while in pursuit of insurgents.

TEARS FROM RANN (JANUARY 2017)

A portion of Rann affected by the bombing (Photo by ICRC)

“He was having his bath when the bombs came down.”

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On January 17, 2017, Fanne Abakar lost her husband and three children to the Nigerian Air Force misfiring in Rann, Borno state.

The air force plane dropped two bombs in the middle of Rann, which hosted thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP).

The incident left 126 people — including aid workers and refugees — dead, and many more injured.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said the death toll might be as high as 170.

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It said an aid distribution was taking place at the time of the attack and that the majority of the victims were women and children.

TheCable visited Rann and documented the incident in a two-part series. You can read them here and here. 

IN SAKOTOKU VILLAGE, THE CHILDREN WERE PLAYING (APRIL 2020)

Some children were said to be playing under a mango tree when the military might descended on them in Sakatoku village, Damboa LGA of Borno state.

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Seventeen people, including women and children, were killed in the April 2020 accidental bombing by a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force.

A source told TheCable that the supposed target was an area in Korongilum, a neighbouring village 12 kilometres away, where suspected Boko Haram insurgents had gathered earlier.

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SOLDIERS FELL IN MAINOK, BORNO (APRIL 2021)

Soldiers carrying the remains of their colleague who was killed in action

In April 2021, some soldiers were killed after a fighter jet belonging to the NAF fired a bomb on the ground troops they were providing air support for in Mainok, Borno state.

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The jet hit the wrong coordinates while targeting Boko Haram insurgents who had attacked the troops some days earlier.

‘NIGER WEDDING GUESTS KILLED’ BUT NAF SAYS NO CIVILIAN CASUALTY (JUNE 2021)

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There were reports that an air force fighter jet killed some wedding guests in Genu, Rijau LGA of Niger state in June 2021.

However, Edward Gabkwet, NAF spokesperson, told TheCable that the security agency had no record of unintended casualties apart from the bandits.

A WOMAN AND HER FOUR CHILDREN ‘KILLED’ IN ZAMFARA (JULY 2021)

A NAF airstrike targeting bandits at the Sububu forest located between Shinkafi and Maradun LGAs of Zamfara reportedly hit and killed a woman and four of her children in July 2021.

Though NAF confirmed it carried out operations in the said location, it denied that civilian casualties were recorded.

BUHARI VILLAGE VICTIMS COMPENSATED WITH N10K (SEPTEMBER 2021)

A few months later, a military airstrike killed at least nine people in Buhari village, Yunusari LGA of Yobe state.

NAF initially denied the incident which occurred on September 15, 2021. It later said the jet was targeting members of the Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) when the village was hit.

Residents in the village told TheCable that they had not witnessed any insurgent attacks in three months, wondering how the mistake happened.

They also said they were given only N10,000 as compensation.

BORDER TOWNS ARE BOTHERED (SEPTEMBER 2021, FEBRUARY 2022)

Nigerian fighter jets in formation for airstrikes

NAF fighter jets in action

On September 28, 2021, about 20 fishermen were reportedly killed by a NAF airstrike in the Kwatar Daban Masara region of Lake Chad.

In another instance, seven children were said to have been killed in a border community in the Niger Republic following a Nigerian military airstrike targeting terrorists on February 20, 2022.

The incident occurred in Nachade village, Maradi.

Chaibou Aboubacar, Maradi governor, said the victims’ parents were attending a ceremony and “the children were probably playing” when the air strikes hit them.

SIX CHILDREN KILLED IN NIGER STATE (APRIL 13, 2022)

A fighter jet targeting terrorists reportedly killed six children in Niger state.

The incident occurred in the Kurebe area of Shiroro LGA on April 13.

The children were hit by the airstrike when they were returning home from where they had gone to fetch water.

ONE DEAD, 13 INJURED IN KATSINA (JULY 2022)

Thirteen residents of Kunkuna village in Safana LGA of Katsina state were reportedly injured following an air strike conducted by NAF in July 2022.

One person was said to have died in the incident.

Abduljalal Haruna, a lawmaker in the Katsina state house of assembly, said the incident occurred shortly after the attack on ex-President Muhammadu Buhari’s security team in the state.

USING ZAMFARA RESIDENTS AS COLLATERAL DAMAGE (DECEMBER 18, 2022)

It seemed it was not exactly a miscalculation when an undisclosed number of people in Dansadau district, Maru LGA of Zamfara state were killed during a raid by NAF.

The military air raid was conducted in Malele, Mutunji and other villages around Dansadau on December 19, 2022.

Lai Mohammed, then minister of information, said the civilian victims were “collateral deaths”, and that it happens “once in a while”.

“Fighting insurgency is a very difficult thing. And as much as the air force or the military are careful, once in a while, it does happen — that innocent people also suffer. We will regret it,” he had said.

30 VIGILANTES KILLED IN NIGER STATE EXPLOSION (JANUARY 2023)

Several vigilante personnel in Galadima Kogo, Shiroro LGA of Niger state, were killed following multiple explosions in the area in January.

The local security men were at the location to ambush some bandits sighted around the area when a jet allegedly belonging to the air force struck many of them dead.

It is yet to be ascertained who exactly sanctioned or carried out the airstrike.

27 DEAD IN NASARAWA EXPLOSIONS (JANUARY 2023)

NAF fighter jets

At least 27 people were reported dead following an explosion in Kwateri, a community between Benue and Nasarawa states in January.

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) said the airstrike occurred after some herders went to get 1,250 of their cows impounded by the Benue livestock guards.

A day after the accident, Abdullahi Sule, governor of Nasarawa, said the explosion in Kwateri was not carried out by a NAF aircraft.

The NAF would later claim responsibility for the strikes but maintained that no civilians were killed.

AT LEAST 30 KILLED BY NAF ACCIDENTAL STRIKES IN KADUNA (DECEMBER 3, 2023)

The latest was an airstrike carried out by NAF on Sunday, which left scores of people dead in Tudun Birni community, Igabi LGA of the state.

Though the exact number of casualties is not yet known, over 30 people were said to have died in the incident.

The Nigerian Army has claimed responsibility for the incident, saying its troops were on a routine mission against terrorists when the “mistake” occurred.

Some people who sustained injuries from the strikes are currently receiving treatment at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital.

WHAT IS NAF DOING ABOUT THESE ACCIDENTAL BOMBINGS?

In October 2022, NAF said it had commenced an investigation into accidental airstrikes on civilians during military operations in the country.

It said the probe would help NAF learn from previous operational negligences and introduce measures to prevent future occurrences.

There is currently no update from NAF on the outcome of its findings.

On Tuesday, President Bola Tinubu ordered a probe into the circumstances leading to the airstrike in Kaduna.

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