The Nigerian military launched an airstrike in the country’s northern state of Kaduna Sunday during an anti-terror operation, but it hit a residential area by mistake, killing at least 85 civilians and injuring 66 others, authorities confirmed Tuesday.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) “has received details from the local authorities that 85 dead bodies have so far been buried while a search is still ongoing” in the Igabi local government area, said Halima Suleiman, a NEMA spokesperson, during an interview with the local Channels Television.
The Nigerian army admitted to the “error” during a meeting held Monday with government officials, according to a statement released by the government of Kaduna state.
The incident occurred as part of a military operation aimed at eliminating terrorist elements in the region. The drone strike, however, hit a residential area instead of the intended target, resulting in a substantial loss of life among the local population.
President Bola Tinubu has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the incident and urged for calm among the populace. In a statement, Tinubu expressed deep regret and sorrow over the killings, describing the incident as “very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful.”
In a separate statement signed by defense spokesman Edward Buba Tuesday, the Nigerian military said that the drone attack was based on information concerning suspicious activities of terrorists in the area.
The unmanned aerial vehicle detachment observed the movement of a group of people suspected to be terrorists at a location known for terrorist activity in Kaduna, Buba said, adding that “aerial surveillance captured the movement of groups of persons exhibiting characteristics synonymous with terrorist tactics and modus operandi.”
“The Nigerian military does its utmost at all times to distinguish between civilians and terrorists, although terrorists often deliberately embed themselves within civilian populations to shield themselves from consequences,” Buba said.