…blames initial denial on ‘first report’ …sets up inquiry board
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), yesterday, ate humble pie, when it admitted that an attack aircraft detailed to bomb suspected terrorists operating along the Kamadougou Yobe River line, may have inadvertently hit civilian settlements, killing many people in the process, and leaving others with varying degrees of injuries.
In January, 2017, a NAF jet on combat mission in Borno State, had mistakenly delivered deadly strikes on an internally displaced people (IDP) camp in Rann, killing over a hundred people. Also in April this year, an aircraft “scrambled” to Mainok in same state where insurgents were attacking a military location, was said to have missed its target, killing some soldiers. Confronted with reports of possible bombing of civilians in a community in Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State, the NAF’s spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, had debunked same, claiming that the last time the Service conducted a mission in the North East state, was on September 5. Gabkwet had said in a statement that: “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. But making a volte face in a statement, yesterday, Gabkwet said his earlier position was occasioned by “first report” made available by the Air Component of Operation Hadin Kai, which was subsequently forwarded to the NAF’s headquarters in Abuja. He, however, disclosed that a Board of Inquiry had been constituted, “to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident”.
“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 terrorists’ activities in the area along the Nigeria/ Niger border at about 0600hrs on 15 September 2021,” the DOPRI said. According to him: “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 (NAF) Headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured. “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.”