•Shettima orders emergency medical response
From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Molly Kilete, Abuja
No fewer than 52 civilians were feared killed, yesterday, as military hit an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in an aerial raid at the border town of Rann, Kala Balge Local Governmnet Area of Borno State.
Dr. Jean-Clement Cabrol, director of operations, Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) also known as doctors without borders, who confirmed the casualty figure said at least 120 others were wounded.
He condemned the bombing, describing it as “unacceptable.”
The military authorities accepted responsibility for the ill-fated raid but declined to disclose casualty figure.
According to the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, the military conducted airstrike in the early hours of the day on a location where Boko Haram were reported to have gathered.
“We got information that Boko Haram terrorists were gathering somewhere in Kala Balge Local Government. We coordinated our air component and struck at the location, but somehow, some civilians were killed,” he said.
Irabor disclosed that some civilians and two humanitarian workers from the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) and Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) were among those wounded in the incident which he described as disturbing.
“Two of our soldiers were also wounded,” he added.
He said the military has already sent helicopter to evacuate the wounded persons but could not comment on whether or not the incident was a tactical error by the military. He said it was rather the cost of war, urging the people to work together to ensure peace returns to the troubled North East states.
He said the military would investigate the cause of the problem.
“It is too early for us to determine whether it was an error or not. We have at no time targeted the civilians whenever we carried out our operations,” he maintained.
He said the military was yet to ascertain the number of persons killed in the airstrike, adding that the death of innocent persons in the course of operation was rather disturbing to the military authority and the institution.
Although thousands of lives have been lost in the state occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram insurgents, casualty from yesterday ‘tactical error’ is one of the highest in in recent times from a single incident.
Buhari, Borno gov. react
President Muhammadu Buhari expressed regrets over the bombing.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement said the President regretted that the incident happened as the Air Force engaged in the final phase of mopping up insurgents in the North East.
President Buhari condoled with families of the dead, wishing the wounded divine succour, leading to full recovery, and sympathising with the state government.
He pledged Federal Government’s help for the state in attending to “this regrettable operational mistake,” and pleaded for calm, even as he prayed God to grant repose to the souls of the dead.
Meanwhile, Governor Kashim Shettima has ordered the state Ministry of Health to set up an emergency unit with all medical hospitals under the state government located in Maiduguri, which include the state Specialist Hospital, the Professor Umaru Shehu Hospital and General Muhammad Shuwa memorial hospital to be on standby to administer treatment to the victims.
The governor’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, in a statement emailed to newsmen, said the governor received the news with “very deep concern and has channeled his focus on ensuring that all the victims, particularly those with severe injuries, are provided urgent medical treatment.”
Governor Shettima, particularly, commended the MSF for its rapid response in providing first aid treatment to victims at the scene.
“While the governor is working to ensure all victims are evacuated as soon as possible, the state Commissioner of Health has mobilised medical doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and other health officials in all hospitals owned by Borno State Government, while ambulances have also been deployed. The medical experts are currently on standby with emergency consumables set for treatment of victims as soon as they arrive Maiduguri,” the statement said.
“The Governor’s heart is with families of all those affected and he has urged citizens to pray for the repose of the souls of those dead and the speedy recovery of the injured,” it added.
Also, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent had deployed a helicopter to Rann to begin evacuation of victims, starting with those with the most critical health conditions. The MSF (Doctors without border) and officials of the state government were first responders.
MSF condemns bombing
The MSF also known as doctors without borders said the large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence was shocking and unacceptable.
“The safety of civilians must be respected. We are urgently calling on all parties to ensure the facilitation of medical evacuations by air or road for survivors who are in need of emergency care,” Dr. Cabrol said.
MSF medical teams are reportedly providing first aid to the wounded in its facility in Rann.
MSF first started working in Nigeria in 1971, and is one of the few organisations still able to operate in hard-to-reach areas of the country.
In a rare display of remorse, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said it was saddened by the accidental airstrike by one of its fighter jet.
“The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is saddened by today’s accidental air strike by its fighter jet at Rann in Kala Balge area of Borno State in which some innocent lives were lost.
“While available information is sketchy, the Theatre Commander Operation Lafia Dole is taking appropriate steps to avail us with details of the incident. The loss occasioned by this unfortunate incident is deeply regretted. The NAF commiserates with those affected and their families and would update the public as soon as detailed facts emerge from the investigation,” NAF director of information and public relations, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said in a statement.
Army offers N.5m for information on suicide bombers
Apparently worried by the seeming resurgence of the Islamist sect which the Federal Government said had been degraded, the military has promised a reward of N500,000 for any information that could lead to the arrest of a suicide bomber, the guide to the suicide bomber, or discovery of the transit house or factory of suicide bombers.
The offer by the Nigerian Army is aimed at encouraging law abiding citizens to actively join the war against terrorists and our collective security, a statement by Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, Director Army Public Relations, said. (The Sun)