“A Tragic Accident”
At least 88 civilians were killed on December 3rd in Tudun Biri, a village within Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria, by two Nigerian military drone strikes. The drone was operating on routine counter-terrorism operations, when those in control of the drone “wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits, before the drone strike”.
The second strike reportedly took place after residents attempted to retrieve the bodies from the first strike.
In actuality, the residents of Tudun Biri were celebrating a Muslim festival called Mawlid, which celebrates the birth of Muhammad. A number of children were among those killed in the strikes.
The Nigerian military has expressed their “sincere regrets and unreserved apologies” for the strikes.
At least 68 people were injured in the strikes, who have been brought to nearby hospitals. Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, the Chief of Army Staff of Nigeria has stated that the Nigerian military will be covering all medical expenses of those wounded in the strikes.
“The Nigerian army is a responsible organ of government and organisation and is willing to support our law-abiding citizens, more so that the unfortunate incident that happened on Sunday (Dec. 03), occurred as a result of an error on the part of Nigerian army personnel. So we are ready to take responsibility for the medical abuse of those ones in the hospital and also provide support to the entire community so that they can live their lives more worthwhile”.
General Lagbaja yesterday, December 5th, visited the site of the strikes, and met with community leaders in order to examine the situation himself and extend apologies to the community affected.
The area has reportedly had militant groups operate frequently in recent times.
Sharp Criticisms and Investigations
The Nigerian military has draw criticism from a multitude of different groups for the strike. Within Nigeria a number of citizens have expressed anger towards the Nigerian military over the strike. Meanwhile the UN called for an investigation into the strike, for those responsible to be held accountable, as well as for the Nigerian military to re-examine rules of engagement.
“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the strike was based on the “pattern of activities” of those at the scene which was wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted. There are serious concerns as to whether so-called “pattern of life” strikes sufficiently comply with international law”. -Excerpt from the UN Statement
The UN’s full statement may be read here.
#Nigeria: We deplore an airstrike in Kaduna State that reportedly left at least 80 civilians dead and more than 60 injured.
The authorities must thoroughly and impartially investigate all alleged violations and hold those responsible to account. ? https://t.co/2aNDK6FjZt
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) December 6, 2023
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday, December 5th, called for an investigation into the strikes. It is unclear if the investigation ordered will prosecute those responsible.
Notably, this is not the first instance of the Nigerian military killing civilians in accidental strikes. As per SB Morgen, a Nigerian geopolitical intelligence platform, at least 300 civilians have been killed in accidental strikes since 2017.