The Nigerian air force has killed dozens of refugees and wounded aid workers when it accidentally bombed a camp, a military official said. The fighter jet was reportedly on a mission against Boko Haram extremists.
A Nigerian Air Force fighter jet fired on a refugee camp in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, killing refugees and aid workers while wounding scores of other civilians, a military official confirmed.
The military has not provided specific numbers, but a Borno state official told The Associated Press that around 100 refugees had died.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said “at least 120 people were wounded and 52 killed following today’s bombing.” The also called the attack “shocking and unacceptable.”
MSF also tweeted pictures from the scene showing rubble and many wounded people seeking shelter in nearby tents.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said six of their Red Cross workers had been killed while another 13 had been injured.
The incident happened around 9 am (0800 UTC) in the far north of Borno state at the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency, as aid workers distributed food to refugees who were forced to flee the violence.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that he “received with regret” news of the bombing, adding that he sympathized with the families of the dead and injured. Buhari also pledged the support of the federal government “in dealing with the situation and attending to the victims” on Twitter.
Strike intended for Boko Haram
Major General Lucky Irabor, who heads the military operation against the militants, confirmed the accidental bombardment in northeast Rann, near the border with Cameroon.
“Somehow, some civilians were killed. We are yet to ascertain the number of persons killed in the air strike,” Irabor told reporters.
Irabor said he ordered the mission based on geographic coordinates of “Boko Haram terrorists” in the area near where the refugee camp was located.
He said the military would conduct a full investigation and that the Air Force would not deliberately target civilians.
“[This is] the result of fog of war,” Irabor added. “It is unfortunate. That is the reason why this war must come to an end.”
Locals villagers in the past have reported some civilian casualties in near-daily bombardments against Boko Haram in the area.
The bombing comes as Nigeria’s military claims territorial gains against the extremist group, pushing them out of their remote bases in Borno state.
The extremist group has stepped up attacks over the last few weeks as the end of the rainy season has enabled fighters to move more easily in the bush. Northeastern Nigeria has been the focus of the jihadist group’s seven-year insurgency to create an Islamic caliphate.
rs/se (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)