Nigerian air force probes reports it killed civilians

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) — The Nigerian air force said it is investigating reports that shots fired from one of its jets in the northeast killed civilians.

This would be the fourth major accidental killing of civilians by the air force in less than five years as it faces criticism about such incidents.

Military spokesperson Edward Gabkwet said the air force received reports alleging that “some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured” in the operation on Wednesday in Yobe State near its border with the West African nation of Niger.

Air Commodore Gabkwet did not specify the casualty toll, but a health worker at Geidam General Hospital said at least 30 people had been brought there by military trucks with various degrees of injuries. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to press.

Malam Baba Gana, a resident in the area, said, “I saw many injured persons brought in (at the hospital) by two trucks.,” adding that there was a significant amount of blood.

Gabkwet said the air force was targetting Boko Haram extremists moving along the Kamadougou Yobe River, an area which he said is “well-known for continuous activities” by Boko Haram and its offshoot the Islamic State in West Africa Province, known as ISWAP.

“The aircraft while operating south of Kanama observed suspicious movement consistent with Boko Haram terrorists behaviour whenever a Jet aircraft is overhead. Accordingly, the pilot fired some probing shots….Unfortunately, reports reaching Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured,” he said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni confirmed the incident but did not give details of what happened. In a statement issued at midnight, he said it “could have been an accident or mistaken target” and added that the state “will work closely with the security forces to establish what actually happened”.