KANO, NIGERIA: At least 52 aid workers and civilians were killed on Tuesday when an air force jet accidentally bombed a camp in northeast Nigeria instead of Boko Haram militants, medical charity MSF said.
The incident happened at about 0800 GMT in Rann, in the far north of Borno state, the epicentre of the jihadi insurgency, as food was being distributed to displaced people.
There was no official death toll from the military, which blamed ‘the fog of war’ for the mistake, but one senior commander described the casualties from the air strike as ‘huge’.
One local resident, Abba Abiso, told AFP: “At least 25 were killed and many more injured.”
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said “at least 120 people were wounded and 52 killed following today’s bombing”, calling the attack “shocking and unacceptable”.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said six Nigerian Red Cross members were among those killed while 13 others were injured.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement he ‘received with regret’ news of the bombing and said he sympathised with the families of the dead and injured.
The bombing comes as Nigeria’s military claims further gains against the Islamic State group affiliate, pushing them out of captured territory and their remote bases in Borno.
Last month, the army said the conflict was in its final stages after nearly eight years of violence that has killed at least 20,000 and left more than 2.6 million others homeless.
Nigerian Army Major General Lucky Irabor, who heads operations against the militants, said the air force had been given coordinates of ‘Boko Haram terrorists’ in the Kala-Balge area.
“Unfortunately the strike was conducted but it turned out that the locals somewhere in Rann were affected,” he told reporters at a briefing in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
Irabor did not give casualty figures but said local staff from MSF and the ICRC were among those wounded. “These are the result of fog of war,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2017.
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