18, January 2017
At least 100 civilians have been killed in what Nigeria’s army calls a mistaken airstrike in the north of the country. Nigerian military commander, Major General Lucky Irabor, confirmed on Tuesday that the attack in the northeastern area of Rann, near the border with Cameroon, had mistakenly targeted a refugee camp.
The general had earlier declined to give a toll of casualties. “Many civilians, including personnel of International Committee of the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) were wounded,” he said of the Tuesday morning attack, which was carried out in Borno state.Local officials said the air force fighter jet that carried out the attack was on a mission to bombard suspected positions of Boko Haram, a Takfiri group operating in northern Nigeria and some neighboring countries.
Several other people, including aid workers, were injured in the airstrike. Later reports said those injured were all Nigerian nationals working for international aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC said in a later statement that six of its workers were killed in the airstrike. “We regret that among the casualties of today’s airstrikes in Rann, there are six Nigerian RC members killed and 13 wounded,” said the aid group. Hours later, the MSF issued a statement condemning the airstrike.
“This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable,” said MSF director of operations, Jean-Clement Cabrol. Nigeria has been at war with Boko Haram since the group started an insurgency in Borno about eight years ago. Almost 15,000 people have been killed while the violence has displaced more than two million, including those refugees killed in the mistaken airstrike.
Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Daesh, another Takfiri group, which has been wreaking havoc in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few years. A task force established by the African Union to help Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram has almost contained the violence. However, Boko Haram has used the end of the rainy season to step up attacks over the past weeks as its militants could move easier in the bush. On Tuesday, the terror group claimed bombings that rocked the University of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, a day earlier. A professor and a child were killed in the attack while 17 others were wounded.