President Buhari regrets incident, condoles with families

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Dozens of civilians have been killed on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 during an airstrike by military troops, initially targeted at Boko Haram location, but landed in a Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camp in Borno State.

The Rann IDP camp is located at Kala-balge Local Government Area in the northeastern state is home to thousands of people, including women and children, displaced by Boko Haram.

Initial reports from the camp indicates that a least a 100 people were injured and several dead. The injured have been evacuated to hospitals.

Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, the Defence Headquarters spokesperson, confirmed this tragic mistake and said it was an “error” by the Nigerian Airforce  that “the military deeply regretted”.

According to Abubakar, the troops received intelligence on the movement of Boko Haram terrorists and deployed ground troops and aerial support to confront the terrorists.

An International Red Cross, ICRC, helicopter has been deployed to the camp to evacuated the wounded to the various hospitals, while the Borno State government had ordered all hospitals to be prepared to receive the wounded.

Rann IDP Camp Airstrikes
A victim of the RANN IDP Airstrike which killed 52, pictured at a Maiduguri hospital | Punch

Major General Lucky Irabor, the war’s threat commander, while confirming the incident told journalists in Maiduguri that the military conducted airstrike on a location where Boko Haram were reported to have gathered.

“We got information that Boko Haram terrorists were gathering somewhere in Kala Balge Local Government. We coordinate our air component and strike the location but somehow, some civilians were killed,” he said.

General Irabor also disclosed that some civilians and two humanitarian workers from the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) and Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) were wounded in the incident which he described as disturbing.

“Two of our soldiers were also wounded,” he confirmed.

He said the military has already sent helicopter to evacuate the wounded persons. He, however, could not comment on whether or not the incident was a tactical error by the military.

He said it was rather the cost of war, urging the people to work together to ensure peace returns to the troubled northeast States.

He said the military will investigate the cause of the problem.

“It is too early for us to determine whether it was an error or not. We have at no time targeted the civilians whenever we carried out our operations and wherever they are gathered,” General Irabor maintained.

He said the military was yet to ascertain the number of persons killed in the airstrike, adding that the death of innocent person in the course of operation was rather disturbing to the military authority and the institution.

Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, an international humanitarian non-governmental organisation which provided medical care for people in war-torn regions, says at least 120 people were wounded and 52 killed in the incident. The organisation strongly condemned the bombing in a set of tweets.

A statement by the Nigerian presidency said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has received with deep sadness and regret, the accidental bombing of a civilian community in Rann, Borno State, by the Nigerian Air Force, engaged in the final phase of mopping up insurgents in the North-east”

The statement signed by a spokesperson of the Nigerian president, Femi Adesina, said “President Buhari condoles with families of the dead, wishes the wounded divine succour, leading to full recovery, and sympathizes with the Borno State government.

“The President pledges federal help for the state government in attending to ‘this regrettable operational mistake,’ and pleads for calm, even as he prays God to grant repose to the souls of the dead.”

Additional reports by PR Nigeria.

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