The Oasis Reporters
September 19, 2021
A recent strike by the Nigerian Air Force targeted at Boko Haram, an Islamist sect uprising against Western education in Nigeria’s poor and impoverished North East region has accidentally killed civilians in an airstrike, a NAF spokesman said Thursday.
The airstrike best exemplifies the double jeopardy the hapless people of the region faces. Boko Haram impoverishes them, kills them as well as prevents them from going about their farm work, while the military equally hits them hard in friendly fires, turning the entire region into a vast pool of humanitarian disaster.
Washington Post reports that the incident comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to end a ban on weapons sales, including for aircraft capable of carrying out strikes, put in place by President Barack Obama.
Edward Gabkwet, the air force spokesman, said in a brief interview that he does not know how many civilians were killed, and that an investigation into the attack is ongoing.
Local reports put the death toll at the village in Yobe State at least 10, with more injuries. The governor there instructed local hospitals to provide free care to those who suffered injuries and said his office would work with the military to determine what had gone wrong.
“Government will work closely with the security forces, especially the Nigeria Air Force, to establish what actually happened,” Gov. Mai Mala Buni said in a statement.
Gabkwet initially denied that NAF was involved. But on Thursday, after Buni called for an investigation, the spokesman released a statement saying one of NAF’s pilots fired shots after observing “suspicious movement consistent with Boko Haram terrorists behavior.”
“Unfortunately reports reaching Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured,” he said in the statement.
The Nigerian government has used airstrikes in the northeast to target Boko Haram and an offshoot loyal to the Islamic State that have killed more than 30,000 people over the past 12 years.
NAF has said it will use A-29 Super Tucano planes from the United States to conduct some of those airstrikes. Six of the planes arrived in Nigeria in July, following the Trump administration’s controversial decision to greenlight the nearly $600-million Super Tucano deal, ending an Obama-era ban of selling weapons to Nigeria.
Asked Thursday whether Super Tucano planes were involved in this airstrike, Gabkwet said he did not believe so, but added, “all of these things will come out when the investigation is done.”
The vast north east region used to be watered by lake Chad that made the land fertile, but whose waters have dried by half. All government attempts to drive water from it from the river Congo in Central Africa has not received sufficient support.
Consequently, the struggle for diminishing natural resources have turned the citizenry against one another, coupled with the combustible fuel of religious insurgency has turned the once fertile region into an endless disaster where women and girls remain largely unsafe and street boys get recruited into the cadre of boko Haram fighters who want to overthrow the government and establish an Islamist theocracy.
Alfa reported from Maiduguri, Nigeria for Washington Post and additional reporting by Greg Abolo.