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Kaduna Bombing: Tinubu, Northern Governors, others demand probe

Kaduna Bombing: Tinubu, Northern Governors, others demand probe

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, northern governors and other prominent Nigerians have called for the probe of the drone attack on a Kaduna village on Sunday.

President Tinubu, who sympathised with the families of victims, the people and government of Kaduna State over the “mistaken” bombing of worshippers in Tundun Biri in Igabi local government area, has ordered an immediate investigation into the attack.

Tinubu in a statement issued by presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, described the incident as “very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful” and expressed indignation and grief over the tragic loss of Nigerian lives.

He directed a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and called for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap.

The president also directed swift and comprehensive medical attention for surviving victims while praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased.

The National Emergency Agency, at least 85 people have been confirmed dead after a “mistaken” army drone attack on a religious gathering in northwest Nigeria, authorities said. The president on Tuesday ordered a probe into the latest in a series of mistakes in Nigeria’s conflict zones.

“85 dead bodies have so far been buried while search is still ongoing,” NEMA said in a statement.

At least 66 people were injured, the agency added.

Also, the chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum and governor of Gombe State Inuwa Yahaya has expressed deep sorrow over the accidental bombing of Maulud celebrants by the Nigerian Army in Tudun Biri community.

Inuwa in a statement issued by his media aide Isma’ila Uba Misilli extended the forum’s condolences to the government and people of Kaduna State on “this profoundly distressing time”, describing the loss of innocent lives as a “heartbreaking tragedy.”

He said while the fight against banditry and terrorism remains crucial, it must be executed with the highest level of professionalism and care to prevent such heart-wrenching accidents.

The governor called for a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the unfortunate incident.

“It is imperative for the authorities to take prompt and necessary measures to not only address the immediate concerns of the victims and the affected community, but also to prevent any future occurrences,” he said.

He assured the affected families and the community as well as the people of Kaduna State of the support and commitment of the northern governors to ensuring justice and security in the region.

In their reactions, apex northern sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) condemned the “horrific armed drone attack” on a Maulud procession at Tudun Biri community, Afaka Ward, near Rigasa in Igabi local government area of Kaduna State in the evening of Sunday.

They called for a full investigation into the attack that left over 80 innocent people dead and more than 50 injured and compensation for the victims.

ACF in a statement signed by the national publicity secretary, Prof. T. A. Muhammad-Baba, said the forum is “perplexed and deeply disturbed that such an operation could be contemplated and executed in this densely populated area, suggesting an inexcusable, scandalous and plausibly incompetent failure of intelligence.

“It is indeed trite to say that sound intelligence is the fulcrum of military operations, While the army authorities have come out with the usual platitude of ‘investigating’ the matter, there is a need to be more forthcoming on the details, even if to douse the feeling in many quarters that there was an initial attempt to downplay the incident except for the vigilance of some members of the public,” ACF said.

It noted that such incidents of accidental or inadvertent military actions have happened in other communities in the past, with tragic consequences on civilians and demanded that efforts must thus be put in place to avert such avoidable loss of lives (and property).

“Communities in the northern states have enough problems with banditry to have to again worry about becoming hapless victims of the misbegotten strategies of those who should be helping to totally wipe out the scourge of banditry and terrorism.

ACF therefore said, “a full, thorough, honest and open investigation of the incident, to establish what exactly happened, who was involved and how, the number of lives lost and injured; etc. Any and all those found guilty of professional or operational incompetence must be severely disciplined, and transparently so.

“The investigation must be undertaken with the full participation of the people of the affected community (who must not be intimidated into keeping quiet on the gory details of their losses). For emphasis, the Kaduna State Government has a duty to act to protect the interest of the victims and not the Nigerian Army personnel that perpetrated the incident.

“Full compensation must be paid for the dead in accordance with current Islamic diya value for individual lives. The injured must not only be fully treated free of charge but must also be rehabilitated on full recovery, as well as fully compensated for losses of livelihoods and incomes while on the road to full recovery,” it said

On its part, JNI in a statement signed by the secretary-general, Professor Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said, “The purported bombing of Muslim faithful by the supposed aerial patrol, resulting in the reported loss of no fewer than 100 innocent lives is a reprehensible and deeply condemnable act. Such a callous and devastating incident is utterly antithetical to the principles of peace and unity that we, as a community, strive to uphold at this critical moment of the Nigerian nationhood, and the act portends danger, especially to military-civil relationship.”

The umbrella Islamic group said it was in” utter disbelief that the military will act in such a manner knowing fully that before any operation is carried out due diligence is usually carried out, backed with irrefutable intelligence.

“What happened to the airspace control procedure? Is it not the norm that directives issued by competent military authority for combat engagement are well delineated? Does it not require a commander to plan minimal causality, while conducting attacks, where there may be civilians and/or seek to avoid, if not feasible, minimise the incidental harm to civilians? What about the theory of minimal collateral damage? Isn’t the military reflective of the principles of military necessity, humanity, proportionality and distinction?

“One really finds it difficult to comprehend what happened in Tudun-Biri, as it signals a very wrong path to thread, especially that the Nigerian citizens’ buy-in should be sought more at this critical moment of the fight against all forms of criminalities in Nigeria.

“JNI therefore vehemently condemns this tragic incident in its entirety and calls for a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the devastating and most unfortunate event. We urge authorities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable in accordance with the subsisting laws.

“We also call on the Federal Government of Nigeria through its relevant MDAs, to as a matter of urgency take up the medicals of all the affected victims and pay the due ransom of all the deceased. This call has become inevitable considering that similar episodes have occurred in recent past in Yobe, Zamfara, Borno and other places,” JNI said

ACF and JNI implored Allah’s infinite mercy upon the departed souls, praying for their peaceful repose in Jannatul-Firdaws, and beseech Him to grant patience and solace to the bereaved families during this incredibly difficult time and further prayed Allah, the Most Merciful to bestow healing and swift recovery upon the injured.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said the incidence of miscalculated airstrikes by the military during internal security operations was assuming a worrisome dimension in the country, hence the need to develop counter-insurgency strategies that will insulate the civilian population from tragic incidents.

Atiku, who took to his verified X handle (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday to react to the unintended bomb attacks on a religious gathering in Tudun Biri village of Igabi local government area of Kaduna State on Sunday night, said he was grieved by the news of the sad incident, in which scores of villagers, including children and women, were killed and many others injured.

The former PDP presidential candidate, therefore, called for a thorough investigation into the tragedy in order to avert future occurrences.

Meanwhile, the senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Sunday Marshall Katung has said they would ensure that the victims of a mishap involving a community in Igabi LGA and the Nigerian Army during an operation.

He commiserated with the people of Kaduna State and the community involved and promised to ensure that the survivors are not abandoned to faith.

Military Apologises, Says Terrorists Disguise As Civilians To Evade Attacks

In its first official reaction, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) regretted the miscalculated airstrike that killed innocent civilians in ligarma village of Kaduna State.

The director of defence information Major General Edward Buba, in a statement, said terrorists had developed the strategy of deliberately embedding in rural communities to avoid military strikes.

“These terrorists as part of their tactics disguise themselves as civilians to perpetrate terror,” Buba said, adding that the military spotted terrorists gathering for an attack and neutralised the threat but also recorded some collateral damages.

He said the Nigeria Army unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) detachment observed movement of terrorists at Ligarma, a terrorist-infested area of Kaduna State.

“Aerial surveillance captured movement of groups of persons synonymous with the terrorist tactics and modus operandi. The observed advance of the terrorists that were gathered posed a threat to key infrastructure within the reach of the untoward activities. Accordingly, the threat was eliminated to prevent the terrorists from unleashing terror on innocent civilians,” he said.

General Buba added that terrorists often “deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centres in order for civilian population to bear the consequences of their atrocities”.

He, however, stated that 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,” he said and added such tragedies are needless and unwanted, causing the armed forces to take extensive measures to avoid them.

The director said the military continually give precise instructions to communities.

For instance, “communities are to always 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,” Buba said.

He reiterated that the armed forces will continue to operate in line with international law as it always has done.

Similarly, the chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, visited and commiserated with victims of the Tudun Biri community and tendered an unreserved apology over the incident.

He donated the sum of N10 million to the over 50 injured survivors of the accident for their upkeep when he visited them at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Kaduna.

The COAS during the visit which is about five kilometres west of the Kaduna International Airport was accompanied by top military commanders praying at the mass grave of the victims.

Speaking with journalists who were in his entourage, the COAS said the accidental strike was done by UAVs’ platforms on the trail of bandits.

According to him, “On Sunday, December 3, 2023, while the Nigerian Army UAV platforms were conducting armed reconnaissance around the vicinity of Riyawa, Ruma, the drones observed movement of people suspected to be bandits and having trailed them for some time, the decision was taken to strike based on the observation of some tactics usually employed by bandits.

“Unfortunately, the report we got thereafter revealed that innocent civilians in Tudun Biri that the drone carried out the strike on,”Lagbaja said.

He said with the reports, he felt the urgent and essential need to visit the attacked vicinity physically to first commiserate with the community on the unfortunate incident.

According to him, the visit was also aimed at determining the kind of enquiry that would be conducted by the Nigerian Army to forestall reoccurrence of such an unfortunate incident.

“We also look beyond to determine the kind of operations we will be conducting going forward in the vicinity and its environs.

“We have already set up an inquiry, while a visit to the village has given an idea of the kind of expertise that would be employed into the committee. The enquiry committee will ensure a holistic view and recommendations that will be worthwhile going forward.”

He said, the Nigerian Army as a responsible organisation of the Government would support the law-abiding citizens and their families for being victims of the unfortunate incident, adding that, the army would also provide support to the entire community to alleviate their sufferings.

The COAS however urged the community to always provide useful information to the authorities and security operatives in order to ensure swift action against adversaries.

The district head of Rigasa, Alhaji Aminu Idris, described the drone attack as unfortunate, saying that over 80 people were buried.

He also confirmed the COAS statement that the environment was infested by bandits as he said that the community had suffered several bandit attacks.

He urged the army to continue to do its best in protecting the life and property of the people, just as he expressed optimism that the authorities would compensate the families of the deceased to ameliorate their sufferings.

The COAS and his entourage thereafter visited the survivors of the attack at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital where he donated N10 million to the survivors for their upkeep.

Kaduna Peace Commission Urges Calm

Relatedly, the Kaduna State Peace Commission has called for calm over the unfortunate incident.

Addressing a press conference in Kaduna yester, the executive vice chairman of the commission, Dr Saleh Momale said, “As we are all aware, in recent years, villages surrounding the affected areas have been repeatedly targeted by armed groups including bandits and insurgents.”

The commission said the Nigerian Armed Forces in conjunction with other sister security agencies have worked tirelessly with the government and the communities to ensure peace and security in the general areas, which had allowed the people to live in relative peace.

It said notwithstanding the efforts, the villages have continuously suffered periodic bandits and insurgents’ attacks and that it is under such difficult circumstances that the Nigerian Armed Forces often carry out periodic air interdictions on bandits and insurgents targets especially in parts of Igabi and Birnin Gwari Local Government Areas of the State.

“It is heartbreaking and regrettable that one of these interdictions intended to target bandits and insurgents on the night of Sunday 3rd December 2023 affected a celebrating community, in which dozens of citizens including children and women lost their lives, while many others sustained life-threatening injuries.

“This is a tragedy that creates deep wounds in the minds of Nigerians, especially the surviving members of the victims’ families. The commission is passionately appealing for calm at this trying moment. All citizens are enjoined to provide necessary support and assistance to the affected communities,” he said.

Leadership. 

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