85 civilians dead in accidental Nigerian army drone strike, shaking the nation. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has ordered a thorough investigation into a military drone strike. The attack, occurring over the weekend in Tudun Biri village of Kaduna state, happened as Muslims gathered to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The incident during a Muslim festival marks a distressing addition to a series of errant strikes in northern Nigeria, a region plagued by armed group activities.
President Tinubu expressed his concern over the "bombing mishap," describing it as "worrying" and "painful." In a statement delivered by spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale, the President urged for calm and a diligent inquiry into the unfortunate event.
The President directs a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and calls for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap.- Spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale
Kaduna Governor Uba Sani revealed that the civilians were "mistakenly killed and many others were wounded" by a drone targeting terrorists and bandits. The National Emergency Management Agency confirmed the burial of 85 victims, while the search continues.
Amnesty International's Nigeria office, however, reported a higher death toll, estimating 120 fatalities. "Many of them were children [and] more dead bodies are being discovered," said Isa Sanusi, the group’s director in Nigeria.
Local resident Mustapha Rufai recounted the incident, saying, "They said they mistakenly threw a bomb on them," highlighting the gravity of the mistake.
This drone strike is part of a troubling pattern of errant bombings in Nigeria's north. Since February 2014, there have been at least 14 documented incidents of bombings in residential areas, causing civilian casualties.
The Nigerian army often targets armed groups' hideouts with aerial bombardments, occasionally striking villages. These groups, known as bandits, have been responsible for various violent acts, including kidnappings and attacks on military assets.
The recent bombing has sparked outrage, intensifying allegations of human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces. This scrutiny comes amid concerns from Western allies, including the United States. In February, two members of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee urged the Biden administration to halt arms assistance to Nigeria, citing reports of targeted killings and human rights violations.
Major-General Valentine Okoro, head of the Nigerian army division in charge of operations in Kaduna, acknowledged the error during a security meeting. "The Nigerian army was on a routine mission against terrorists but inadvertently [its actions] affected members of the community," he said.
Kaduna Security Commissioner Samuel Aruwan reported that search-and-rescue efforts are ongoing, with many wounded being treated in hospitals.
In response to the tragedy, the Nigerian Air Force stated that it had not conducted operations in Kaduna on the night of the incident, but acknowledged that other entities operate combat drones in the region.
The mishap has caused fear among local villagers, with reports of many fleeing the area in anticipation of further attacks. Despite promises from state officials for investigations and compensation, past similar incidents have often gone uninvestigated, leaving victims without justice or adequate recompense.
Lt Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, the Nigerian army chief, visited the affected village, offering apologies and assurances of compensation. However, the incident underscores a broader issue of dangerous military operations against insurgencies, often resulting in civilian casualties.
Villagers like Idris Dahiru and Husseini Ibrahim shared harrowing accounts of loss and devastation. Dahiru lost numerous family members in the strike, while Ibrahim mourned the loss of 13 family members.
I was inside the house when the first bomb was dropped … We rushed to the scene to help those affected and then a second bomb was dropped. My aunt, my brother’s wife and her six children, wives of my four brothers were among the dead. My elder brother’s family are all dead, except his infant child who survived. We buried 85 people that were killed in the bomb attack.- Idris Dahiru
The National Emergency Management Agency's statement and President Tinubu's remarks underline the gravity of the situation. The President, attending the Cop28 Climate Summit in Dubai, expressed his grief and indignation over the tragic loss of life.
Governor Sani affirmed the state's commitment to preventing such tragedies and prioritizing the protection of its people.
This incident is a stark reminder of the challenges facing Nigeria's military operations against insurgencies in the north. While the government increases defense spending and pledges to enhance security measures, the need for improved accuracy and accountability in military operations remains critical to preventing further loss of innocent lives.