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'Pilot fired some probing shots,' Air Force admits responsibility for accidental killing of Yobe villagers

A Board of Inquiry has been set up to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident.

NAF says the aircraft was not carrying bombs as reported (image used for illustration) [NAF]

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has withdrawn its initial denial of the accidental killing of some villagers in Yobe State, and admitted responsibility.

Over a dozen residents of Buhari village in Yunusari Local Government Area of the state were killed in a reported bombing by a military aircraft on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

More than 20 people have also been reported to have suffered injuries as a result of the attack.

NAF immediately dismissed initial reports on Wednesday, insisting that there's been no air operation in Yobe since September 5.

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However, the Force spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, retracted that in a new statement on Thursday, September 16, admitting that a jet was in the area.

He said the aircraft was deployed to respond to suspected Boko Haram activities in the area along the Nigeria/Niger border, and that it fired on an area where terrorists were suspected to be converging.

"The aircraft while operating South of Kanama, observed suspicious movement consistent with the insurgents 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 insurgents activities.

"But unfortunately, reports reaching NAF Headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured," he said.

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Gabkwet also noted that the earlier denial of involvement was based on limited information available to the NAF Headquarters at the time, but stressed that the aircraft was not carrying bombs as reported.

A Board of Inquiry has been set up to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident.

NAF is no stranger to accidental airstrikes, notably killing over 100 civilians, including aid workers, when it bombed an IDP camp in Rann, Borno State in 2017, believing the settlement to be a camp inhabited by Boko Haram terrorists.

The military accepted responsibility for the bombing and President Muhammadu Buhari called it a 'regrettable operational mistake', but investigations into the incident were never made public and no one was held responsible.

At least 17 people, including children, were also killed when a NAF jet bombed Sakotoku village, also in Borno, in 2020.

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A video also surfaced in April 2021 showing two soldiers alleging that NAF jets targeted soldiers instead of insurgents during a confrontation in Mainok, Borno.

Between 20 and 30 soldiers were reported to have been killed as a result of the accidental strikes.

The Air Force said the reports were being investigated, but has provided no updates since then.

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