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Nigeria admits ‘regrettable mistake’ after killing dozens of refugees

MSF/AFP | Picture shows Nigerian refugee camp in Borno state following a mistaken bombing by the air force on January 17, 2017

Nigeria’s air force killed at least 76 people on Tuesday in a botched air strike on a refugee camp in the country’s northeast, aid agencies have said. The Nigerian president’s office called the tragedy a “regrettable operational mistake”.

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Humanitarian groups and Nigeria’s military said the strike – meant to target militants of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency – occurred in Rann in Borno state.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) on Wednesday said six Nigerian staff were killed and 13 wounded.

"In addition to aid staff, it is estimated that 70 people have been killed and more than a hundred wounded," it said in a statement.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the deaths “underline the importance of protecting civilians in complex humanitarian emergencies”.

“The president pledges federal help for the state government in attending to this regrettable operational mistake,” said Femi Adesina, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, in an emailed statement.

Borno state is the epicentre of the jihadist group’s seven-year-long bid to create an Islamic caliphate.

The Boko Haram insurgency has killed more than 15,000 people since 2010 and forced some two million to flee their homes, many of whom have moved to camps for internally displaced people.

Boko Haram on the move

The air strike came amid an offensive against Boko Haram by Nigeria’s military over the last few weeks. Buhari said last month a key camp in the jihadist group’s Sambisa forest base in Borno state had fallen.

The presidency also said the air strike occurred during the “final phase of mopping up insurgents in the northeast”.

Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in recent weeks as the end of the rainy season has enabled its fighters to move more easily in the bush.

A video featuring an audio recording purporting to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, which was posted on social media late on Monday, said the group was behind twin suicide bombings at a university earlier that day which killed two and injured 17 others.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

 

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