NAF beats retreat, admits ‘unfortunate’ bombing of civilians in Yobe

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NAF fighter jet

Nigerian Air Force, Thursday, made a U-turn, admitting that one of its fighter jets on a mission against terrorists “unfortunately” bombed civilians in Yobe State on Wednesday.

NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Edward Gabkwet, stated this in a statement made available to journalists Thursday, adding that investigation had commenced into the incident.

Air Force spokesman had, Wednesday, denied reports linking one of its fighter jets to the bombing.

Gabkwet had explained that the mission last conducted by NAF in Yobe was earlier in the month.

“NAF last conducted a mission into Yobe State (not Yunusari LGA) on 5 September 2021 and it was an armed recce [an informal term for reconnaissance, being a military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features].

“No bomb or missile was even expended,” he had said.

This was as the residents recounted how Nigerian Air Force fighter jet killed nine people in Buhari community, Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State.

Several other villagers sustained injuries and are now receiving medical attention at a government health facility in Geidam.

However, the Nigerian Air Force has denied any link of its fighter jets to the bombing.

A resident of Damaturu, Saleh Ibrahim narrated that the jet shelled the village in the early hours of Wednesday when the villagers were preparing to go to the weekly market in Geidam, a neighbouring local government area, 200 km from Damaturu.

“The villagers were already set to go to the market at Geidam early in the morning when, suddenly, the jet appeared from nowhere and started shelling the village.

“Instantly, three people died. The sound of gunshots scared the villagers and they ran for safety, but others sustained injuries as a result.

“Some of the injured were attempting to tend to the dead people when they also got hit by bullets from the jet.

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“As of 5 pm on Wednesday, the number of dead people had risen to nine, while over 30 people sustained injuries and are receiving treatment at Geidam General Hospital,” Ibrahim stated.

He added, “Buhari village is in Yunusari Local Government Area, but Buhari village is closer to Geidam and the entire Yunusari doesn’t have facilities to attend to the injured victims.”

According to the source, Yunusari Local Government Area has a strong presence of Boko Haram terrorists and has Boko Haram camps from where the insurgents often launch attacks against neighbouring Geidam Local Government Area and make a retreat back to Yunusari.

He said both Yunusari and Geidam share border with Niger Republic.

The acting spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Sector 2 Operation Hadin Kai in Damaturu, Lt. Kennedy Anyanwu, said that they were “yet to receive any situation report about the incident.”

But in a statement on Thursday, the NAF spokesman said that the “initial (Press) release denying the involvement of NAF aircraft was based on the first report available” at the time.

In the statement on the title, ”Investigation commences on alleged aircraft firing of civilian settlements’, Gabkwet said that the location of the incident was a notorious lair for terrorists and “well known for continuous Boko Haram/ISWAP activities.”

The statement read, “Following intelligence on Boko Haram/ISWAP movements along the Kamadougou Yobe River line, an aircraft from the Air Component of Operation Hadin Kai was detailed to respond to the suspected terrorist activities in the area along the Nigeria/Niger border at about 0600 hrs on 15 September 2021.

“The aircraft, while operating South of Kanama, observed suspicious movement consistent with Boko Haram terrorist behaviour whenever a jet aircraft is overhead.

”Accordingly, the pilot fired some probing shots. It is important to state that the area is well known for continuous Boko Haram/ISWAP activities.

“Unfortunately, reports reaching Nigerian Air Force Headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured.

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“Initial release denying the involvement of NAF aircraft was based on the first report available to the Air Component, which was subsequently forwarded to NAF headquarters that civilians were bombed as the aircraft detailed for the mission was not carrying bombs.

“Therefore, a Board of Inquiry has been set up to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident.”

Of recent, fighters in Nigerian Military jets on missions against terrorists and other criminals have been alleged to have bombed innocent Nigerians, including soldiers, due to alleged miscalculations.

In April 2021, over 20 soldiers on ground were allegedly slain in Mainok, Borno State, when a NAF fighter jet responding to attacks on a military camp by Boko Haram insurgents bombed the military camp based on a wrong coordinate.

In August 2021, despite pictorial evidence that a military chopper opened fire on boat passengers carrying foodstuffs while travelling from Port Harcourt to Bonny Island in Rivers State, injuring them in the process, the Defence Headquarters had said those shot were “illegal oil bunkerers.”