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Friday, February 16, 2024

Nigerian Army’s mistaken drone strike claims 88 lives at religious festival

The airstrikes, intended for areas believed to be infested with armed bandits, mistakenly targeted civilians.

The Nigerian Army has inadvertently caused a tragedy during a religious festival in Kaduna State, where at least 88 people lost their lives and 68 sustained injuries in a military drone strike. The incident occurred on Sunday night (3rd December) in the village of Tudun Biri during a Muslim holiday celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Mawlid al-Nabi. The nation mourns as the aftermath unfolds, prompting calls for accountability and a thorough investigation.

Accidental Strike 

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency labelled the incident a “tragic accident” in an official statement. The airstrikes, intended for areas believed to be infested with armed bandits, mistakenly targeted civilians who had gathered for the religious celebration. The casualties included children, women, and the elderly from four different communities, adding a layer of heart-wrenching complexity to the situation.

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Eyewitnesses described the horrifying events, recounting how the aircraft dropped bombs on the festive venue, causing destruction and claiming lives. Subsequently, a second bomb targeted those attempting to rescue victims, leading to further casualties. One eyewitness shared the personal toll, stating that their family lost 34 members, with 66 individuals sustaining injuries.

Military’s Regret and Explanation

The Nigerian Army expressed regret for the mistaken bombing, attributing the error to troops wrongly analysing and misinterpreting the activities of the gathered civilians. In a statement, the army acknowledged the tragic consequences of their actions, emphasising that they had misidentified the group as bandits during aerial patrols.

The army’s regret was accompanied by a condolence visit from Nigeria’s chief of army staff to the affected Tudun Biri community. The military conveyed “sincere regrets and unreserved apologies” to the grieving community, attempting to address the immense sorrow and anger stemming from the incident.

Public Outcry and Social Media Response

Across Nigeria, public anger has surged, with citizens expressing their frustration on social media platforms. Many questioned the recurring pattern of civilian casualties resulting from military airstrikes, demanding accountability and an end to such tragic errors. Some users criticised the military’s inability to differentiate between innocent civilians and potential threats.

“How does the Nigerian Army keep murdering civilians with air strikes and later claiming it to be an error?” queried one user, reflecting the sentiment of many. The lack of clarity on how such errors persist has left the public in disbelief and seeking answers.

Presidential Response and Calls for Investigation

President Bola Tinubu expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, describing the incident as profoundly unfortunate, deeply disturbing, and undeniably painful. In response to the tragedy, he has instructed a comprehensive investigation into the matter, urging the public to remain calm while authorities diligently scrutinise the circumstances surrounding the mishap. The Kaduna State government’s decision to establish a commission of inquiry highlights the government’s earnest commitment to addressing the incident with gravity and ensuring justice for the affected families.

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This heartbreaking incident contributes to an alarming pattern, as per findings from the SB Morgen research firm’s geopolitical intelligence platform, indicating that a minimum of 300 individuals has lost their lives in unintentional military strikes since 2017. The repetitive occurrence of such events prompts inquiries into the efficacy of military operations and underscores the imperative for enhanced intelligence gathering to prevent additional casualties among innocent civilians.