Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Scores Die as Nigerian Air Force Jet Bombs IDPs Camp in Error
By Duku Joel, Maiduguri and Seun Akioye, Abujaon
Nigerian Nation
January 18, 2017

Aid workers, soldiers among victims

A Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jet targeting Boko Haram members, yesterday killed scores and injured many more after firing into an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp.

The accidental strike occured in Rann, Kala/Bage Local Government Area in the northern part of Borno State.

Many of the dead are charity workers and civilians.  Two soldiers also died.

The military, which admitted the bombing error, and the government of Borno State, did not state the death toll, but charity organisation Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said 52 people were killed. It put the figure of the injured at 120.

The Red Cross said six of its workers died.

The charity’s director of operations, Jean-Clement Cabrol, said: “This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable.”

MSF spokesman Etienne l’Hermitte urged the Nigerian authorities to facilitate evacuations of those injured, by land and air.

“Our medical and surgical teams in Cameroon and Chad are ready to treat wounded patients. We are in close contact with our teams, who are in shock following the event,” he said.

Cabrol said: “The safety of civilians must be respected. We are urgently calling on all parties to ensure the facilitation of medical evacuations by air or road for survivors who are in need of emergency care.

“MSF medical teams are currently providing first aid to 120 wounded patients in its facility in Rann. 50 people have so far been confirmed dead.  The organisation’s medical and surgical teams in the region are preparing to treat evacuated patients”.

The Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-Gen. Lucky Irabor, told reporters that some of the humanitarian workers affected were from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and MSF.

He added that many Boko Haram terrorists were killed in the air raid.

Gen. Irabor said: “We got reports of a gathering of Boko Haram terrorists at Kala/Balge this morning (yesterday); and a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jet conducted an aerial strike on the gatherings of insurgents.

“This resulted into killings of several terrorists and civilians, including some (members of) staff of MSF and ICRC.

He added: ”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.’

”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 other civilians were somewhere around the area and they were affected.

“We are sending helicopters to evacuate those that were critically wounded, including our wounded soldiers,” Gen. Irabor said.

“Today’s military air strikes are a little bit disturbing. It is disturbing enough for me. I cannot give you the exact level or number of casualties right now, as I address you on this unfortunate development at Kala/Balge.

“We have sent helicopters to immediately evacuate the wounded soldiers and civilians to Maiduguri for treatment.

“It is unfortunate and that is the reason why the war must come to an end; because the cost is certainly not good enough for everyone.”

The Theatre Commander however noted that it would be premature to describe the incident as tactical error, stressing that “as far as the issue of local casualties are concerned, the military could not have deliberately targetted a civilian population. But the issue would be investigated to ascertain what went wrong,” he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed sadness and regret over the incident.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President condoled with families of the dead and wished the wounded divine succour, leading to full recovery.

The President also sympathised with the Borno State government.

He pledged the Federal Government’s help for the state government in attending to what he described as “this regrettable operational mistake”.

He pleaded for calm and prayed God to grant repose to the souls of the dead.

Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima ordered medical response for the victims.

He directed the  Ministry of Health to set up emergency units in all hospitals – the State Specialist Hospital, the Professor Umaru Shehu Hospital and General Muhammad Shuwa Memorial Hospital –  in readiness for the arrival of the victims, who will be flown to Maiduguri.

A statement by his spokesman Isa Gusau said: “As at this evening, the International Committee
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has deployed a helicopter, which is on ground at Rann to begin evacuation of victims, starting with those with the most critical health conditions. The MSF (Doctors Without Borders) along with officials of the state government have been first responders. Governor Shettima particularly commends the MSF for its rapid response in providing first aide treatment to victims at the scene.

“While Governor Shettima is working to ensure that ýall victims are evacuated as soon as possible, the State Commissioner for Health has mobilised medical doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists ýand other health officials in all hospitals owned by Borno State
Government while ambulances have also been deployed. The medical experts are currently on standby with emergency consumables set for treatment of victims as soon as they arrive in Maiduguri.

“Casualty figures are yet to be ascertained but from information available to the Governor, there are records of deaths with many persons injured. The Governor’s heart is with families of all those affected and urges citizens to pray for the repose of the souls of those dead and the speedy recovery of the injured.

“Governor Shettima looks forward to formal communication from the military to ascertain what happened and would brief the press should there be the need to do so. For now, all focus should be on the evacuation of victims and the provision of emergency medical services
to them with the hope that they quickly recover,” the statement said.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) described as “unfortunate” and “highly regrettable” the accidental bombing.

In a statement by its Director, Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, the NAF said it would update the public after its investigations.

Famuyiwa said: “The NAF is saddened by today’s accidental air strike by its fighter jet at Rann in Kala Balge area of Borno State in which some innocent lives were lost. While available information is sketchy, the Theatre Commander OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE is taking appropriate steps to avail us with details of the incident.

“The loss occasioned by this unfortunate incident is deeply regretted. The NAF commiserates with those affected and their families and would update the public as soon as detailed facts emerge from the investigation.”

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