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2 Nigerian military officers to face court martial over drone strike that killed civilians

FILE - A victim of an army drone attack receives treatment at a hospital in Kaduna, Nigeria, Dec. 5, 2023.
FILE - A victim of an army drone attack receives treatment at a hospital in Kaduna, Nigeria, Dec. 5, 2023.

Two Nigerian military officers will face a court martial over a December drone strike that killed at least 85 civilians, the Defense Headquarters said on Thursday.

The December 3 attack was one of the country's worst airstrike errors. The Nigerian military acknowledged the drone accidentally struck a village in northwest Kaduna State, killing residents as they celebrated a Muslim festival.

The military depends on aerial assaults to combat Islamic militants in the northeast and armed kidnapping gangs in the northwest. It said it misinterpreted the religious gathering of villagers as armed criminal gangs and apologized for the error.

"It is hoped that there would be no repeat of strikes on non-combatants in ongoing operations," it said. "The military will take extra precautions in the future to ensure that non-combatants are safe."

Defense Headquarters spokesperson Major General Edward Buba said the strike should have never happened.

"The military has conducted a painstaking investigation into the incident and has initiated disciplinary action against those culpable," he said.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu called the mistake "disturbing" and ordered an investigation in December.

The United Nations human rights office said the drone strike was the latest of at least four airstrikes since 2017 that caused significant civilian fatalities. It called on the government to take steps to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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