Drones accidentally hit Tudun Biri village as residents celebrate a Muslim festival
- The president of Nigeria describes the incident as worrying.
- Many of the victims were women, children and the elderly.
- The military admits that one of its drones accidentally hit the village.
At least 85 civilians have been killed in a failed Nigerian military drone strike targeting armed groups in the country’s northwestern Kaduna state.
Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Tuesday called the incident alarming and ordered an investigation after the military acknowledged that one of its drones accidentally hit the village of Tudun Biri on Sunday as residents were celebrating a Muslim festival.
The military did not give casualty figures, but emergency officials and residents had said 85 people, many of them women and children, had been killed.
“The North West Zone Office has received details from the local authorities that 85 bodies have been buried so far while investigations are ongoing,” the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a statement.
NEMA said another 66 people are in hospital.
Many of the victims were women, children and the elderly who were celebrating a religious holiday.
Nigeria’s armed forces often rely on airstrikes in their battle against bandit militias in the country’s northwest and northeast, where the militants have been fighting for more than a decade.
“President Tinubu describes the incident as very unfortunate, disturbing and painful, expressing outrage and sadness at the tragic loss of Nigerian lives,” the presidency said in a statement.
The military had said its drone was a routine mission that “inadvertently affected” members of the community. But it also said armed groups often mixed with civilian populations in the region.
Later, the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Taoreed Lagbaja visited the local community leaders to apologize for the random strike and ask for an investigation to avoid similar mistakes.
“Troops were conducting aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and incorrectly analyzed and misinterpreted their plan of activities to be similar to that of bandits, prior to the drone attack,” the military said.
After taking office in May, Tinubu said tackling insecurity was one of his key concerns as he tries to bring more foreign investment to Africa’s most populous nation.
Militia gangs, known locally as bandits, have long terrorized parts of northwestern Nigeria, operating from bases deep in forests and raiding villages to loot and kidnap residents for ransom.
In the northeast, the jihadists have been pushed back from the territory they held at the height of the conflict, although they continue to fight in rural areas.
More than 40,000 people have been killed and two million displaced since 2009 in this conflict.
Bombings by the Nigerian military have accidentally hit civilians in the past.
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