My heart goes out to the families. Tragedy struck in the fight against Boko Haram on Tuesday as a fighter jet involved in the operation in the North-East fired at aid workers, soldiers and displaced persons in error, killing no fewer than 100 persons on the ground.
Aid workers killed in the bombing included the officials of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), International Committee of the Red Cross and some refugees.
The Nigerian Air Force said in a statement on Tuesday evening that it had begun an investigation into the accidental air strike.
The NAF Director of Information and Public Relations, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said, “We are saddened by today’s accidental air strike by our fighter jet at Rann, in which innocent lives were lost. While available information is still sketchy, the loss occasioned by this unfortunate incident is deeply regretted.
“We commiserate with the affected families and would update the public as soon as detailed facts emerge from the investigation.”
It was learnt that the accidental air strike happened at about 9am in Rann, in the far north of Borno State as aid workers distributed food to Internally Displaced Persons.
A resident of the area, Abba Abiso, told AFP on the telephone, “This (Tuesday) morning, a military jet mistakenly bombarded Rann, instead of (nearby) Kala.
“In recent weeks, Boko Haram has moved base to Kala from Sambisa Forest and obviously, a military jet mistook Rann for Kala and bombarded it, killing many civilians.
“At least 25 were killed and many more injured.”
The Doctors Without Borders, however, said in a statement, “MSF teams have seen 120 wounded and 50 dead following the bombing.”
An official of Borno State Government, one of those helping to coordinate the evacuation of the injured by helicopter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 100 people had been killed.
MSF later, on Tuesday, put the figure of dead at 95, admitting that it had yet to confirm the figure.
The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, General Lucky Irabor, who heads the military operation against the militants, said the Nigerian Air Force had been given coordinates of Boko Haram terrorists in the Kala-Balge area.
“This morning, we received a report about the gathering of Boko Haram terrorists around the Kala Balge area of Maiduguri,” he told reporters at a briefing in Maiduguri on Tuesday.
“I coordinated and I directed that the air component of the operation should go and address the problem. Unfortunately, the strike was conducted but it turned out that the locals, somewhere in Rann, were affected.
“So far, it is a little bit disturbing; death has occurred. There are casualties; there were deaths and injuries but on the actual number of casualties, we would get back to you later.
“I am yet to get the number of casualties of civilians killed, but two soldiers were also affected...
“We are sending helicopters to evacuate those that were critically wounded, including our wounded soldiers.”