Accidental airstrikes: Nigerian military kill over 130 civilians in 2023

MORE than 130 civilians have been killed in accidental airstrikes by the Nigerian military in 2023.

These fatalities were recorded during two separate airstrikes that occurred in different parts of the country.

At least 85 unarmed civilians were killed recently in an attack by the military on Tundun Biri village, Kaduna state. The villagers had been celebrating the Maulud Nabiyy (the birth of Prophet Muhammad) in the late hours of Sunday, December 3, when they were bombed.

The Nigerian Army took responsibility for the bombing, and according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 85 corpses were recovered from the scene of the attack, as the search for others is still ongoing.

However, human rights organization Amnesty International stated that the number of people who died in the attack was as high as 120.

The organisation disclosed this in a statement via its official X handle, condemning the attack by the military and calling for investigations.

“Amnesty International strongly condemns air strikes by the Nigerian Army, launched on Tudun Biri village in Igabi LGA of Kaduna state. Over 120 civilians have been killed and dozens injured. Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard.

“The air strike on the community while holding a religious gathering on Sunday, December 2023, must be investigated. Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect,” the statement partly read.

Reacting to the incident, in a statement, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Taoreed Lagbaja described the attack as regrettable, adding that such attacks would be avoided in future.

“My assessment of that unfortunate incident of Sunday, December 3, 2023, is that it is grave, regrettable. We will do everything possible to prevent such an occurrence from happening again in the conduct of our operations going forward,” he said about one of the country’s deadliest military bombing accidents.

However, this is not the first time civilians have been killed in such a manner by the Nigerian military.

Barely 11 months before the Kaduna attack, civilians suspected to be herders returning from Benue state were killed in Nasarawa during a military airstrike.

The attack occurred on Tuesday, January 24, and according to a report by SBM Intelligence, at least 47 people died during the incident.

However, the police disclosed that only 27 corpses were recovered following the attack.

No justice for affected victims

After the airstrike in Nasarawa state, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack for several months.

Nearly six months later, NAF, however, accepted responsibility for the attack, although very little information was provided.

    In June, Human Rights Watch condemned the lack of justice for victims of the airstrike and the delay in accepting responsibility by the NAF.

    Although the Nigerian Army acted slightly differently from NAF by accepting responsibility a few days after the airstrike, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) blamed the incident on terrorists who often hide within civilian communities.

    He also stated that communities such as Tudun Biri were always expected to alert the military of their activities.

    “These instructions are intended at enabling the military to distinguish between friendly and untoward activities,” Director of Defence Media Operations Edward Buba, disclosed in a statement on Tuesday, December 5.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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