Nigerian army drone strike error kills civilians

Nigerian army drone strike error kills civilians

Nigeria's army is battling jihadists in the northeast and bandit militias in the northwest. (Photo: AFP)
Nigeria's army is battling jihadists in the northeast and bandit militias in the northwest. (Photo: AFP)

KANO (NIGERIA) - An army drone strike accidentally hit a village in northwestern Nigeria killing dozens of civilians celebrating a Muslim festival, local authorities, the military and residents said on Monday.

Nigeria's armed forces often rely on air strikes in their battle against so-called bandit militias in the northwest and northeast of the country where jihadists have been waging a 14-year conflict.

The army did not provide details or a death toll for the strike late Sunday in Tudun Biri village, Kaduna State, but residents said dozens were killed and wounded.

Local officials also reported fatalities.

"Muslim faithful observing Maulud were mistakenly killed and many others injured following a military drone attack targeting terrorists and bandits," Kaduna State governor Uba Sani said, ordering an investigation.

"We buried 85 people that were killed in the bomb attack," said resident Idris Dahiru, whose relatives were among the dead.

He said more than 60 injured people were being treated in hospital.

"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," he added.

"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."

- Dozens of wounded -

Dozens of wounded were taken to a teaching hospital in the state capital Kaduna, local state security commissioner Samuel Aruwan said following a meeting with army officials and community leaders.

He said the attack left "several citizens dead and others injured" but did not provide a toll.

According to the army, it was a routine mission against militants that "inadvertently affected members of the community," he said.

Resident Husseini Ibrahim told AFP late on Monday: "I lost 13 members of my immediate family among the 85 that were killed.

"They included my children and those of my brothers, seven boys and six girls. We buried the victims today."

Many of the victims were women and children, resident Hassan Ma'aruf told AFP by telephone, sharing images he said showed the bodies.

AFP could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the images.

"We have so far identified 30 dead victims," he said, speaking earlier on Monday.

Militia gangs, known locally as bandits, have long terrorised parts of northwest Nigeria, operating from bases deep in forests and raiding villages to loot and kidnap residents for ransom.

In the northeast, jihadists have been pushed back from the territory they held at the height of the conflict, though they continue to fight on.

More than 40,000 people have been killed and two million displaced since 2009.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has made tackling insecurity a priority since coming to office in May, as he seeks to encourage foreign investment in Africa's most populous country.

Nigerian military bombing raids have caused civilian casualties in the past.

At least 20 fishermen were killed and several injured in a September 2021 attack in Kwatar Daban Masara on Lake Chad in the northeast, when the military mistook them for militants.

In January 2017, at least 112 people were killed when a fighter jet struck a camp housing 40,000 people displaced by jihadist violence in the town of Rann near the border with Cameroon.

The Nigerian military blamed "lack of appropriate marking of the area" in a report issued six months later.

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