By Andah John with agency report
No fewer than 52 aid workers and civilians were killed on Tuesday when a Nigerian air force jet ‘mistakenly’ bombed a camp in northeast Nigeria instead of Boko Haram militants, medical charity MSF said.
Concise News gathered that the incident happened at about 9:00 am (0800 GMT) in Rann, in extreme north of Borno state. It was further gathered that food was being distributed to displaced people at the time.
The Nigerian military has yet to state an official death toll. However, 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 Tuesday’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.
Buhari consoles families of victims
President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement he “received with regret” news of the bombing. He further sympathised with the families of the dead and injured.
Tuesday’s bombing comes as the country’s military claims further gains against Boko Haram terrorists, pushing them out of captured territory and their remote bases in Borno.
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. “It is unfortunate. That is the reason why this war must come to an end.”
Defence spokesman Rabe Abubakar in Abuja described the incident as “a mistake”, adding: “We are actually in grief. It’s unfortunate and it’s really not intended.”
An eyewitness account
Rann resident Abba Abiso suggested the error occurred as the military was targeting rebel fighters who had been flushed out of Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno.
“In recent weeks Boko Haram has moved base to Kala from Sambisa Forest and obviously a military jet mistook Rann for Kala and bombarded, killing many civilians,” he added.
MSF and the ICRC said its teams were trying to provide emergency first aid at its facility in the camp and were stabilising patients to evacuate the wounded from the scene.
But Jean-Clement Cabrol, MSF’s director of operations, condemned the error.
“This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable. The safety of civilians must be respected,” he said.