Nigeria in shock after military’s drone strike kills 85 civilians

Nigerien soldiers stand guard as supporters of Niger’s coup leaders gather for a demonstration in Niamey on Aug. 11, 2023, near a French airbase in Niger. — AFP Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has expressed shock after a military’s drone mistakenly struck civilians, leaving at least 85 people dead.

The drone strike hit the village of Tudun Biri on Sunday when residents were celebrating a Muslim festival, prompting the president to ordered an investigation the army acknowledged its mistake.

The army did not give any casualty figures, but emergency officials and residents had said 85 people, many of them women and children, were killed.

“The Northwest Zonal Office has received details from the local authorities that 85 dead bodies have so far been buried while the search is still ongoing,” National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a statement.

NEMA said another 66 people were being treated at hospital.

Many of the victims were women, children and elderly who had been celebrating a religious festival.

Nigeria´s armed forces often rely on air strikes in their battle against bandit militias in the northwest and northeast of the country, where militants have been fighting for more than a decade.

“President Tinubu describes the incident as very unfortunate, disturbing and painful, expressing indignation and grief over the tragic loss of Nigerian lives,” the presidency said in a statement.

The army had said its drone was a routine mission that “inadvertently affected” members of the community. But it also said the armed groups often mixed with civilian populations in the area.

Later, Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Taoreed Lagbaja visited local community leaders to apologise for the accidental strike and seek an enquiry to prevent similar mistakes.

“Troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analysed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits, before the drone strike,” the military said.

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