DHQ shifts blame despite killing 85 civilians in Kaduna airstrike

DESPITE killing 85 unarmed civilians and injuring several others, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Tuesday, December 5, said the Nigerian Army did its best to distinguish between civilians and terrorists in the bombing of a community in Kaduna state on Sunday, December 3.

It further stated that terrorists often mix with civilians, noting that the Army’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) detachment observed the movement of terrorists at Ligarma, an area notorious for being a haven for insurgents.

The ICIR reports that scores of people were feared dead when Tundun Biri village was bombed while residents celebrated Maulud Nabiyy (the birth of Prophet Muhammad) in the late hours of Sunday.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has since confirmed that 85 bodies have been recovered so far while search is still ongoing.

Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy group, however, stated that over 120 persons, including women, children, and the elderly, died during the air attack.

A statement by the Director of Defence Media Operations, Edward Bub, on Tuesday said that the general area of Tudun Biri and adjoining villages have been infested with armed bandits, who terrorised the communities.

“The observed advance of the terrorists that were gathered posted a threat to key infrastructure within reach of the untoward activities. Accordingly, the threat was eliminated to prevent the terrorists from unleashing terror on innocent civilians.

“It should be noted that terrorists often deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centres for the civilian population to bear the consequences of their atrocities. Nevertheless, the Nigerian military does its best at all times to distinguish between civilians and terrorists.

“The military views every civilian death in the cause of operations as a tragedy as such tragedies are needless and unwanted, which causes the armed forces to take extensive measures to avoid them,” the statement added.

The DHQ explained further that communities were expected always to alert troops of their activities, particularly when such a community is known to be infested with terrorists and their sympathisers.

“These instructions are intended at enabling the military to distinguish between friendly and untoward activities.”

In another statement, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Taoreed Lagbaja, during his visit on Tuesday, pointed out that the troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits before the drone struck.

The incident has since generated widespread reactions from political leaders and concerned Nigerians, demanding a probe into the matter.

President Bola Tinubu has also sympathised with the victims’ families and the Kaduna state’s government.

“Tinubu describes the incident as very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful, expressing indignation and grief over the tragic loss of Nigerian lives.

“The President directs a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and calls for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap,” the presidency’s statement reads in part.

    The President also directed swift and comprehensive medical attention for survivors of the attack while praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased.

    The ICIR reports that the attack wasn’t the first time the Nigerian military would be accused of bombing unarmed Nigerians.

    In 2021, The ICIR reported how the Nigerian military killed and injured civilians in several villages, leading to the forced displacement of hundreds of residents.

    The military had embarked on offensive airstrikes at insurgents’ hideouts in Zamfara state and provided support for ground troops to rid out criminals from the North-East region.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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