Tragedy and tears was the order of the da for Borno State as a Nigerian Airforce fighter jet mistakenly dropped bombs on some settlements, believed to also harbour Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs), in Rann, Kala Balge LGA of the state, killing over 50 persons. About 200 others, including some humanitarian aid workers of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) were reported injured.
International aid agency, MSF, confirmed to BBC that at least 50 person were killed and more than 100 injured in the accident.
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed regrets at the incident and has appealed for calm over the ‘’unfortunate accidental bombing,’’ saying the accident happened while the Nigerian Air Force engaged in the final phase of mopping up Boko Haram terrorists in the North-east.
“So far, it is a little bit disturbing; death has occurred. There are casualties; there were deaths and injuries,’’ New Agency of Nigeria quoted Maj-Gen. Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole as saying on Tuesday.
He said: “This morning, we received a report about the gathering of Boko Haram terrorists around Kala Balge area of Maiduguri. I coordinated and directed that the air component of the operation should go and address the problem.
“Unfortunately, the strike was conducted but it turned out that other civilians were somewhere around the area and they were affected.’’
He said some humanitarian staff of Medicines Sans Frontiers and some staff of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) were also affected.
“We are sending helicopters to evacuate those that were critically wounded, including our wounded soldiers.”
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) described the incident as unfortunate and highly regrettable.
In a statement by the Director, Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, the NAF said it would keep updating the public as soon as investigations were concluded.
Famuyiwa said: “The NAF is saddened by today’s accidental air strike by its fighter jet at Rann in Kala Balge area of Borno State in which some innocent lives were lost. While available information is sketchy, the Theatre Commander OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE is taking appropriate steps to avail us with details of the incident.
“The loss occasioned by this unfortunate incident is deeply regretted. The NAF commiserates with those affected and their families and would update the public as soon as detailed facts emerge from the investigation.”
MSF said that many of the casualties were believed to be displaced people who had fled from areas where Boko Haram had carried out attacks.
The charity’s Director of Operations, Jean-Clement Cabrol, said: “This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable.”
MSF spokesman Etienne l’Hermitte urged the Nigerian authorities to facilitate evacuations of those injured by land and air.
“Our medical and surgical teams in Cameroon and Chad are ready to treat wounded patients. We are in close contact with our teams, who are in shock following the event,” he said.
The President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said he received the news of the bombing with deep sadness and regrets.
Buhari also condoled with families of the dead, wished the wounded divine succour, leading to full recovery and sympathized with the Borno State government.
The President pledged federal help for the state government in attending to “this regrettable operational mistake,” and pleaded for calm, even as he prayed God to grant repose to the souls of the dead.
The Defence Headquarters also expressed shock at the incidence, describing it as a regrettable mistake that would be avoided in future.
The Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen. Abubakar Rabe, told THISDAY last night that the incident was receiving the attention and review of the military high commander and apologised to the nation for the costly mistake.
Similarly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, expressed sadness over the incident, calling on the military authorities to ensure that such incident did not occur in future.
Dogara, in a statement yesterday night offered condolences to the families of the victims, and prayed for quick recovery of those injured.