DEFENCE Headquarters (DHQ) said it confirmed the presence of members of the Islamic West African Province (ISWAP) before carrying out an air strike that killed 20 civilian fishermen in Kwatan Daban Masara coastal village along the Lake Chad Basin.
This was contained in a statement signed by Acting Director of Defence Media Operations Bernard Onyeuko on Thursday.
Onyeuko said the Operation Hadin Kai acted on credible intelligence on the activities of terrorists in an identified ISWAP Camp at Kwatan Daban before conducting the air strike.
“Consequently, the intelligence gathered was processed and carefully analyzed between the period of 19 August and 23 September 2021.
“Persons wearing combat vests and uniforms identified as ISWAP-styled uniforms were seen within the camp. Furthermore, neither women nor children were noticed in or around the camp, just as no fishing activities were seen,” the statement read in part.
DHQ said only canoes loaded with unidentified items were seen parked but they were not engaged in any fishing activity.
“Having carefully ascertained that nearby civilian settlements were not in the line of fire and a precision strike would disrupt ISWAP logistics movement and neutralize them; a decision was made to conduct a strike on the ISWAP camp,” Onyeuko said.
However, Onyeuko admitted that the casualty figures could not be ascertained but he said the strike was verified to be successful in disrupting ISWAP logistics movement and foot soldiers.
“It is important to state that the location is a well-known ISWAP enclave and there is an existing ban on fishing activities within the area. Additionally, the general area is known as a gateway for movement of logistics by ISWAP elements especially from Kirta and Wulgo locations,” he added.
The ICIR had reported that an airstrike at Kwatan Daban Masara was said to have killed 20 civilian fishermen.
In a telephone interview with The ICIR, Edward Gabkwet also refuted the report that the fishermen were killed.
“Did you see picture of anyone that was killed, where is it, it’s not true,” Gabkwet said.
Since 2017, no fewer than 130 civilians have been ‘mistakenly’ killed by the Nigerian military.
Gabkwet told The ICIR that the previous occurrence where 12 civilians were killed by military air strike was still under investigation.