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Red Cross: 70 Civilians Killed in Nigeria Bombing Mistake

  • VOA News

People walk at the site after a bombing attack of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Nigeria, Jan. 17, 2017.

At least 70 civilians were killed and about 100 others wounded in northern Nigeria as a result of a military airstrike that hit a camp for displaced people by mistake, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The strike happened Tuesday in Rann, near the border of Nigeria and Cameroon. Nigerian officials called the incident an accidental bombing during operations targeting militant group Boko Haram. Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina told VOA there had been some Boko Haram activities nearby and the military made an "operational mistake" while in the process of trying to "take out the insurgents."

This handout image received courtesy of Doctors Without Border (MSF), Jan. 17, 2017, shows a wounded child after an air force jet accidentally bombarded a camp for those displaced by Boko Haram Islamists, in Rann, northeast Nigeria.
This handout image received courtesy of Doctors Without Border (MSF), Jan. 17, 2017, shows a wounded child after an air force jet accidentally bombarded a camp for those displaced by Boko Haram Islamists, in Rann, northeast Nigeria.

The Red Cross said six of its Nigerian members were among the dead. The organization also said in a statement that the workers were in Rann as part of a humanitarian operation bringing food to more than 25,000 displaced people.

President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement on his official Twitter account, promising support for the victims.

"I received with regret news that the Air Force, working to mop up BH insurgents, accidentally bombed a civilian community in Rann, Borno State," he said.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its members were treating 120 wounded patients in its facility in Borno. The doctors group put the death toll at 52 in a statement released in the hours after the attack.

Major General Lucky Irabor, who heads the military operation against Boko Haram militants in the area, said the Air Force was given coordinates of terrorists.

"Unfortunately, the strike was conducted, but it turned out that the locals somewhere in Rann were affected," he told reporters at a briefing in the state capital.

The United Nations sent medical personnel and supplies to the area, and airlifted out eight injured Nigerian Red Cross workers.

A statement from the U.N. humanitarian office said there are 43,000 internally displaced people in Rann, where access to deliver aid to address food shortages and severe malnutrition has been difficult.

Injured people are comforted at the site after a bombing attack of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Nigeria, Jan. 17, 2017.
Injured people are comforted at the site after a bombing attack of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Nigeria, Jan. 17, 2017.

"This is an unfortunate tragedy that befell people already suffering the effects of violence," said the U.N.'s humanitarian chief for Nigeria, Edward Kallon.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Wednesday calling on Nigeria to compensate the families of the victims.

"Even if there is no evidence of a willful attack on the camp, which would be a war crime, the camp was bombed indiscriminately, violating international humanitarian law," said Mausi Segun, a senior Nigeria researcher at HRW.

The bombing comes as the military claims more and more territory in Borno - Boko Haram's stronghold. Last month, the army said the conflict was in its final stages after eight years of violence, in which 20,000 people have been killed and 2 million others left homeless.

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