A Nigerian state official [Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)] says a Nigerian Air Force fighter jet on a mission against Boko Haram militant group has mistakenly bombed a refugee camp and aid workers on Tuesday morning, killing at least 50 refugees and wounding Nigerian RC (aid) workers. The Borno state government official is helping to coordinate the evacuation of wounded. A Red Cross worker (An ICRC employee) said 20 volunteers with the aid group has been killed.
The accidental bombardment took place in Borno state in north-eastern Rann, part of the Kala-Balge local government area on the Cameroon border, where the military has been waging a military campaign against the Boko Haram extremists. And that mistaken airstrike, killed ‘some’ civilians and injured aid workers and all Nigerian nationals working for international aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Regional military commander General Lucky Irabor told reporters. He also told the Reuters news agency he did not know how many people were killed.
“Many civilians including personnel of International Committee of the Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were wounded,” Regional MIlitary Major General Lucky Irabor said.
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.
I received with regret news that the Air Force,working to mop up BH insurgents, accidentally bombed a civilian community in Rann,Borno State
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) January 17, 2017
Doctors Without Borders said its team [Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF)] based in Rann, had seen 50 bodies and treated 120 wounded as of Tuesday afternoon. According to Charlotte Morris, a spokeswoman for the medical charity said, “MSF teams have seen 120 wounded and 50 dead following the bombing.”
A statement from spokesman Etienne l’Hermitte urged authorities to facilitate land and air evacuations, saying, “Our medical and surgical teams in Cameroon and Chad are ready to treat wounded patients. We are in close contact with our teams, who are in shock following the event.”
A spokeswoman for Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a statement that “Our authorities are trying to provide emergency first aid in its facility and are stabilising patients to evacuate wounded.”
Major General Lucky Irabor, who heads the military operation against the militants, said he ordered the mission, based on information that suspected Boko Haram terrorists were gathering in the Kala-Balge area, along with geographic co-ordinates. It was too early to say if a tactical error was made, he said. Lucky Irabor did not give casualty figures but said local staff from Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the ICRC were among those wounded.
The general, who is the theater commander for counterinsurgency operations in northeast Nigeria, said the Air Force would not deliberately target civilians but there will be an investigation.
“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.
The incident comes after Boko Haram, who are affiliated with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). On Tuesday, the terror group claimed responsibility for Monday’s suicide bombing that rocked the University of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno which left five people dead including a professor and a child while 17 others were wounded.
Much of the Nigerian military’s campaign against Boko Haram extremists has been conducted using fighter jets and attack helicopters that fly over vast stretches of the northeast. Villagers of northeast area in the past have reported some civilian casualties in near-daily bombardments in northeastern Nigeria.
This is the first time during Nigeria’s three-year campaign against Boko Haram that the military has acknowledged a large number of civilians killed in a mistaken bombardment. It remains unclear how the military could have misidentified a camp where 25,000 displaced people were living with a terrorist enclave.