Nigerian Government Apologises For Airstrike Error

Over 50 civilians were killed on January 17, 2017 after a fighter pilot mistook them for Boko Haram terrorists.


People in northeastern Nigeria are in mourning mood after tragedy struck on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, resulting in the death of 52 innocent people and the wounding of about 200 others. Thisday newspaper reported yesterday, January 18, 2017 that a Nigerian Air Force fighter jet mistakenly dropped bombs on settlements near the border with Cameroon harbouring Internally-displaced People. The incident happened in Rann, Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State.

Helicopters were immediately dispatched to the scene to evacuate the critically wounded. Amongst those killed were workers of the International Committee of Red Cross, ICRC and Medicins Sans Frontiers, MSF. Major General Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander of “Operation Lafiya Dole,” told the News Agency of Nigeria that he gave the order for the operation. “We received a report on the gathering of Boko Haram terrorists around Kala Balge. I coordinated and directed that the air component of our operation should go and address the problem. Unfortunately, civilians around the area were affected,’’ Irabor explained.

The Nigerian Air Force described the incident as unfortunate and highly regrettable.

The Director of Public Relations and Information, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, promised that the public will be kept updated as soon as investigations were concluded. President Muhammadu Buhari expressed regrets and appealed for calm over the “unfortunate accidental bombing,” explaining that it happened while the Nigerian Air Force engaged in the final phase of mopping up Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast. He pledged Federal help for Borno State Government in attending to the “regrettable operational mistake.”

MSF said many of the casualties were believed to be displaced people who fled from areas Boko Haram had attacked. MSF Director of Operations, Jean-Clement Cabrol, described the accident as “shocking and unacceptable,” urging the authorities to facilitate the evacuation of the injured. He stated the readiness of their medical teams to attend to the wounded.

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