A Nigerian Airforce fighter jet on an operation against Islamic extremists Boko Haram has mistakenly bombed a refugee camp killing about 60 people.
Casualties include aid workers and internally displaced persons. A Red Cross worker said 20 volunteers with the aid group had been killed.
Military commander Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor confirmed the accidental bombardment in northeast Rann, near the border with Cameroon.
Among the wounded were two soldiers and Nigerians working for Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Irabor said.
An ICRC employee said that 20 Red Cross volunteers were among the dead. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to give information to reporters.
Doctors Without Borders said its team based in Rann had counted 50 bodies and treated 120 wounded. A statement from spokesman Etienne l’Hermitte urged authorities to facilitate land and air evacuations, saying,
“Our medical and surgical teams in Cameroon and Chad are ready to treat wounded patients. We are in close contact with our teams, who are in shock following the event.”
Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor said he ordered the mission based on information that Boko Haram insurgents were gathering, along with geographic coordinates. It was too early to say if a tactical error was made, he said.
The general, who is the theater commander for counterinsurgency operations in northeast Nigeria, said the Air Force would not deliberately target civilians but there will be an investigation.
Villagers in the past have reported some civilian casualties in near-daily bombardments in northeastern Nigeria.
Some of the nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 and freed last year have said three of their classmates were killed by Air Force bombardments, according to the freed girls’ parents.
The Borno State government has also said it is waiting for the military to furnish it with full details of what actually transpired in Rann, headquarters of Kala-Balge Local Government Area.