By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) has vowed to investigate reports that a recent air strike conducted by the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE at a village in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State on inadvertently led to the deaths of some civilians.
A recent report had claimed that at least 17 people were said to have been killed when a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force fired a bomb on Sakotoku village in Damboa local government area of Borno state.
The report stated that women and children playing under mango trees were killed in the attack.
The report further claimed that the attack by the military was targeted at Boko Haram insurgents who were gathering around the village on Thursday afternoon.
It said the air strikes targeted an area in Korongilum, a neighbouring village 12 kilometres away where suspected Boko Haram insurgents had gathered earlier.
Speaking on behalf of the military, Major General John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, said the operation, was based on credible intelligence reports, obtained from land forces and other security agencies as well as reliable, vetted informants, which confirmed that the target location was occupied solely by Boko Haram Terrorists.
He said: “Moreover, as customary, the attack helicopter that executed the mission was accompanied by an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to ensure proper targeting for avoidance of collateral damage. Besides, it must be noted that, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) pilots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engagement (ROEs) for the operation, do not attack any location if it is observed that non-combatants, especially women and children, are present. In such cases, the pilots would rather return to Base with their munitions unexpended. Consequently, on the strength of the foregoing, the location was considered a legitimate target.
“Nevertheless, to allay public concerns occasioned by the aforementioned media reports, an investigation is being carried out and subsequent actions will be taken in line with extant regulations and best practices, while remaining accountable to the Nigerian people.
“We wish to reassure the general public that the AFN, in keeping with its professional responsibility, will continue to work assiduously to rid the North East of all terrorist elements with a view to facilitating a return to normalcy that would enable Nigerians in the area pursue their legitimate aspirations.”