ACCIDENTAL AIRSTRIKE: government lied as we lost 234 people- LG

Our Reporter
ACCIDENTAL AIRSTRIKE: government lied as we lost 234 people- LG

A question mark to the casualty figures in the public domain following Tuesday’s mistaken bombing of an internally displaced persons camp in Borno State has emerged with the chairman of Kala Balge Local Government Area, where the accident occurred, Babagana Malarima, saying  that his people buried 234 persons killed in the airstrike.



Malarima said this on Friday when the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, visited to condole with the people of Rann, whose IDPs camp was the target of an accidental aerial bombardment by the Nigerian Air Force.


But the Defence Headquarters said on Saturday that the focus now should be how to honour the dead and not the number of those killed in the unintentional military air strike. “The most important thing is that we are saddened by the incident. It’s an operational error and we are sorry about it. It can happen in operations.


Even internationally, it has happened in Syria and Afghanistan,” Director of Defence Information, Brig Gen Rabe Abubakar, told a local paper against the backdrop of the new casualty figure released by the Kala Balge local government chairman. 


“It is an operational error. Whether it was one person or one million persons, it is immaterial. They are all Nigerians, what is important is to honour the victims involved in this circumstance.”


The air force was said to be targeting a gathering of the Boko Haram terrorist group, when it mistakenly hit the IDPs camp, killing and injuring many persons, including people who had fled their homes due to terror attacks and sought refuge at the camp as well as local and foreign humanitarian aid workers.


 The international aid agency, MSF, was quoted as saying that at least 50 persons were killed, with more than 100 injured. Some reports put the death toll at 100.


But Malarima told Buratai that 234 bodies were carried away from the scene of the raid in Rann and buried. Borno State Government said two of the injured persons, who were taken to Maiduguri for treatment, also died.


The council chairman called on the federal government to compensate the bereaved families and others affected by the bombing. 


He said the volume of destruction of lives and property was massive. He also asked the government to build roads that would link the area to other parts of the state.


Buratai commiserated with the people over the accident. He said he was talking with the commanding officers to ensure there was no repeat of such mistake.


The army chief said barely two days after the Rann misfire by the air force jets, a group of Boko Haram insurgents launched an attack on the community, targeting both the traumatised civilians and the troops.


 But he said they were successfully repelled, with 15 terrorists killed and one captured alive with their arms and ammunition.


Buratai, who was shown the corpses and weapons recovered from the insurgents,said, “The intelligence information we got from our partners was that Boko Haram terrorists were moving into this place and, indeed, the information was that they were already in this place. It’s not unconnected because you saw them coming to attack them here.


“Probably, it must be the information that was gotten and passed to the air component for them to take necessary action and, unfortunately, a mistake happened and it has happened before in other places and we pray it doesn’t happen again.”


The Nigerian Air Force said it had commenced a review of its operations to unravel the cause of the accidental air raid with a view to preventing a recurrence. 


Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, disclosed this in Lagos at a ceremony in honour of about 100 NAF officers that died in a military plane crash in 1992 at Ejigbo, Lagos.


Abubakar said, “Although remarkable successes were achieved, the incident of January 17 in the North-east is highly regrettable and unfortunate. The days between the incident and now have been the most painful for us.


“However, we take solace in the fact that it was in a bid to secure this same victims that this sad incident occurred.

“We are reviewing our processes to unravel how this sad incident could have occurred and to prevent future occurrences.”


Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army on Saturday called for the immediate rehabilitation of roads leading to Rann in order to prevent the area from becoming a new haven of Boko Haram insurgency. 


Buratai made the call during the inauguration of the newly renovated Wolf Officers’ Mess in Maiduguri. He said the deplorable condition of the road had made it difficult for the troops to access the area.


He said, “We were at Rann and saw the devastation and impact made by the mistake. We have seen the people and condoled with them. 


The roads there are not passable, especially, during the rainy season. Government should open up roads there to enhance military operation.”


In his remarks, the Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Victor Ezugwu, thanked Buratai for the project, saying, “We will not rest on our oars until this war comes to an end.”

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