•DHQ explains how drone acquired, eliminated targets
•Says suspicious movement of celebrating crowd posed threats
•Army chief visits victims, apologises, to review operations
•Tinubu orders probe, declares incident painful, disturbing
•Atiku, Obi say miscalculated air strikes becoming worrisome
•ACF, NEF, JNI, call for investigation, compensation
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Kingsley Nwezeh, Emmanuel Addeh, Sunday Aborisade in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna and Segun Awofadeji in Gombe
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa, last night, apologised for the bombing of civilians at Tundun Biri, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, on Sunday. Musa said the army acted on intelligence, but missed, and described the incident as highly regrettable.
Speaking on Arise Television, the defence chief noted that going forward, the military would fine-tune its operations and ensure that such incidents do not reoccur.
In a similar vein, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), yesterday, explained that the targets hit by the military drone in the Kaduna bombing were acquired by air surveillance and subsequently eliminated, presuming that terrorists, who were in the habit of using civilians as shield, were operating at the time.
The DHQ regretted the civilian casualties and claimed it always did its best to distinguish between civilians and terrorists. It said the suspicious movement of the allegedly celebrating crowd, had posed a major threat in an area notorious for terrorist activities, thus propelling the drone attack.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, who visited victims of the attack, tendered “unreserved” apology for the drone strike that hit a civilian community and claimed many
Worried by the incident, President Bola Tinubu ordered a thorough investigation, describing it as painful, disturbing, and
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, said rampant miscalculated air strikes by the military were becoming worrisome and embarrassing.
On their part, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) called for thorough investigation into the accidental bombing.
Chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, also expressed deep sorrow and heartfelt condolences to the families of the Maulud celebrants, who were tragically affected in the unfortunate bombing.
Reacting, too, the senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, Sunday Marshall Katung, regretted the bombing of his constituents, but he called it a temporary setback in the war against terrorism and banditry in the country.
Meanwhile, Kaduna State Government set up a committee for compensation and other forms of assistance to the families of victims of the bomb attack.
Musa, while responding to a question on why it was the army that carried out the operation rather than the air force, which had the training, noted that all the segments of the armed forces had a smaller version of the sister security agencies within their ranks.
The CDS explained that the pattern of movement of the civilians, who were affected, looked almost like that of the terrorists, who had been operating heavily around the area, causing the army to engage them.
Musa refuted insinuations that it was lack of synergy among the armed forces that probably caused the incident. He explained that the cordial relationship between the heads of the forces had never been better.
He stated, “The army has air operation. We have the army aviation, the air force has its own, and the drones are also enablers that we use for modern warfare. The pilots are well-trained and well prepared for the operations.
“I just want to remind individuals that it is a war we’re fighting and, therefore, we make mistakes. As human beings, we all make mistakes and this is just one of them. It was not deliberate.
“They went on after receiving an information of a threat of attack within the general area and they saw the traits of individuals moving similar to the way the terrorists also move, and then they went to congregate under a tree, just the way terrorists do.
“And I think from there, they felt it was time for them to act and then they reacted. It was based on intelligence, but I think they just missed it. And now we just want to convey to Nigerians to understand that mistakes are human and it is highly regrettable.
“We will make amends and ensure we look back and see where these mistakes came from, and then to be able to make sure that we get rid of them properly and to avoid such mistakes.”
Musa noted that it was the duty of the military to protect civilians, not to harm them, especially Nigerian citizens, describing the incident as “highly unfortunate.”
He added that the allegation of partiality against him in some quarters was unfortunate, stressing that the area comprised a mix of more than one tribe and one religion.
“We’re trying to make sure that we’re putting up our best to ensure that we defeat the terrorists and mistakes do happen. It has nothing to do with tribe, religion or ethnicity,” Musa said.
From DHQ, a statement by Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj Gen Edward Buba, said on December 3 about 2200hrs, and based on untoward activities by terrorists, the Nigerian Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) detachment observed movement of terrorists at Ligarma, a terrorist-infested area of Kaduna State.
The statement said, “Aerial surveillance captured movement of groups of persons synonymous with the terrorists tactics and modus operandi. The observed advance of the terrorists that were gathered posed a threat to key infrastructure within reach of the untoward activities. Accordingly, the threat was eliminated to prevent the terrorists from unleashing terror on innocent civilians.
“It should be noted that terrorist often deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centres in order for the civilian population to bear the consequences of their atrocities. Nevertheless, the Nigerian military does its best at all times to distinguish between civilians and terrorists.
“The military views every civilian death in the cause of operations as a tragedy. Such tragedies are needless and unwanted, that cause the armed forces to take extensive measures to avoid them.
“One of such measures taken by the military is to continually give precise instructions to communities. For instance, communities are to always alert troops of their activities, particularly when such a community is known to be infested with terrorists and their sympathisers. These instructions are intended at enabling the military distinguish between friendly and untoward activities.”
The defence headquarters affirmed that the armed forces would continue to operate consistent with international law, as it had always done, and will also continue its determined and cautious progress in eradicating terrorists from the country.
It said, “These terrorist, as part of their tactics, disguise as civilians to perpetrate terror. Accordingly, we will continue to find innovative solutions to the challenges faced in the conduct of operations.”
Lagbaja, who visited the victims yesterday, apologised for the unfortunate incident. He ordered a thorough inquiry to ascertain and identify areas of deficiency that led to the inadvertent disaster.
The COAS added that the findings and the outcome of the investigation would guide the Nigerian Army in meticulously and professionally seeking and applying lasting solutions to identified lapses and deficiencies in both the human and artificial intelligence variables that would forestall future occurrence.
Lagbaja affirmed that in spite of the unfortunate incident, the military remained committed to its constitutional role and democratic stability.
The army chief, who paid a condolence visit to Tudun Biri community, arrived the place in the early hours of Tuesday. He was accompanied by Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) from the Army Headquarters and General Officer Commanding 1 Division, where he met with the Dangaladima Zazau, the District Head of Rigasa, Architect Aminu Idris, and other leaders and members of the community.
A statement by Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, said Lagbaja, in an emotion-laden speech, “expressed regrets on the unfortunate mishap, describing it as a very disheartening occurrence”.
Lagbaja noted that in the recent past, the general area of Tudun Biri and adjoining villages had been infested with armed bandits, who terrorised the communities, until troops of the Nigerian Army started conducting operations to sanitise the area and make it habitable.
He pointed out that the “troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analysed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits, before the drone struck”.
The army chief stated that he was in Tudun Biri “to personally witness the site of the mishap and to convey sincere regrets and unreserved apologies on behalf of the Nigerian Army to the District Head and people of the community, as well as the government and entire people of Kaduna State”.
Lagbaja also commiserated with Chairman of Jamaa’ atu Nasru Islam, Kaduna State, Professor Shafiu Abdullahi, and other clerics.
He also visited affected victims at the Barua Dikko Teaching Hospital Anguwan Rimi, Kaduna, where he made an immediate donation of several provisions for their upkeep and money for their bills.
District Head of Rigasa, Architect Aminu Idris, in his remarks, said despite the enormity of the incident, the Nigerian Army showed integrity in accepting responsibility for the drone strike. Idris urged the leadership of the Nigerian Army to intervene to bring succour to the hospitalised victims and the community.
He maintained that the community was a mixed community of both Muslims and Christians and the victims were of both faiths, contrary to earlier insinuations that the community was solely Muslim.
Meanwhile, at a media workshop organised by the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations and Information (NASPRI) in Abuja, Lagbaja, who was represented by the Commander, Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare Command, Maj-Gen AA Ayanuga, said the military remained committed to its constitutional role and democratic stability.
He said, “Nigerian Army remains highly committed to constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the nation and democratic stability. We remain resolute in expending all our resources to ensure that all enemies of state are contained.”
Tinubu Orders Probe, Says Incident Painful, Disturbing
Tinubu ordered thorough investigation into the bombing.
While calling for calm, as the authorities investigated the accident, the president, in a release yesterday by his media adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, also directed swift and comprehensive medical attention for surviving victims.
Tinubu sympathised with the families of victims, the people and government of Kaduna State over the bombing incident.
He described the incident as very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful, expressing indignation and grief over the tragic loss of Nigerian lives.
Atiku, Obi: Incident Becoming Worrisome, Embarrassing
The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter obi have described the miscalculated air strikes by the military as becoming worrisome and embarrassing.
In a statement he signed, Atiku said, “I am grieved by the news of the drone airstrike that killed dozens of people and left scores of others with various degrees of injury in the Tudun Biri community in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Ironically, the victims of this unfortunate incident were celebrating the Maulud anniversary.
“The incidence of miscalculated air strikes is assuming a worrisome dimension in the country. We need to develop counterinsurgency strategies that will insulate the civilian population from tragic incidents of this nature. I call on the authorities to launch a thorough investigation into this tragedy to avert future occurrence.”
Obi described the bombing as regrettable and embarrassing.
In a statement via his official X handle, Obi said any incident that could lead to harm or the loss of lives of the innocent people the army was meant to protect should be avoided.
He stated, “I read with sadness, the devastating reports of the accidental bombing of Tudun Biri Village in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, by a Nigerian Army craft that mistook the villagers for terrorists.
“The lethal incident left death tolls reported to have risen to 80, with several others injured. While our military continues to fight impressively against insecurity in many parts of the country, they must exercise utmost caution and professionalism to avoid this kind of embarrassment to both the military and the country.
“Any incident that leads to harm or the loss of lives of the innocent people they are meant to protect should be avoided. Even though the mishap is one too many, the security agencies should work with reliable human intelligence report on the ground before any offensive attack to avoid innocent casualties, as has been reported in this case.”
ACF, NEF, JNI Call for Thorough Investigation
Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) called for thorough investigation into the accidental bombing by the Nigerian Army, which allegedly claimed over 80 lives, with many others injured.
In their separate statements in Kaduna, ACF, NEF, and JNI accused the Nigerian Army of lack of due diligence in carrying out their operations.
ACF, in a statement by its spokesperson, Professor Tanimu Mohammed-Baba, called for “a through, honest and open investigation of the incident,” with a view to punishing those found guilty of professional incompetence.
“The ACF is perplexed and deeply disturbed that such an operation could be contemplated and executed in a densely populated area, suggesting an inexcusable, scandalous and plausibly incompetent failure of intelligence,” the statement said.
While condoling with families of the victims, ACF urged that anyone found guilty of professional or operational incompetence must be severely disciplined, and transparently so.
Similarly, NEF, in a statement its Director of Publicity, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said a thorough investigation of the incident “is essential to ensure justice for the victims and prevent future occurrences”.
Suleiman said, “By identifying the causes and circumstances surrounding the incident, the investigation can determine whether any negligence or misconduct occurred, holding those responsible accountable.
“This will provide a sense of closure and compensation to the victims, fostering trust between the military and the civilian population.”
On its part, JNI, said, “The purported bombing of Muslim faithful by the supposed aerial patrol, resulting in the reported loss of no fewer than 100 innocent lives is a reprehensible and deeply condemnable act.”
The statement signed by Secretary General of the religious body, Professor Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said, “Such a callous and devastating incident is utterly antithetical to the principles of peace and unity that we, as a community, strive to uphold at this critical moment of the Nigerian nationhood.
“JNI is in utter disbelief that the military will act in such a manner knowing full that before any operation is carried out, due diligence is usually carried out, backed with irrefutable intelligence. What happened to airspace control procedure? Is it not the norm that directives issued by competent military authority for combat engagement are well-delineated?
“Does it not require a commander to plan minimal causality, while conducting attacks, where there may be civilians and/or seek to avoid, if not feasible, minimise the incidental harm to civilians?
“We urge authorities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable in accordance with the subsisting laws. We also call on the Federal Government of Nigeria through its relevant MDAs, to, as a matter of urgency, take up the medicals of all the affected victims and pay the due ransom of all the deceased.”
Northern Governors’ Chairman, Yahaya, Grieves
Chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, expressed deep sorrow and heartfelt condolences to the families of the Maulud celebrants, who were tragically affected in the unfortunate accidental bombing by the Nigerian army.
Yahaya, in a condolence message, extended his condolences to the government and people of Kaduna State during the distressing time, describing the loss of innocent lives as a heart-breaking tragedy.
The governor emphasised that while the fight against banditry and terrorism remained crucial, it must be executed with the highest level of professionalism and care to prevent such heart-wrenching accidents.
Calling for a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the unfortunate incident, he said, “It is imperative for the authorities to take prompt and necessary measures to not only address the immediate concerns of the victims and the affected community, but also to prevent any future occurrences.”
‘Bombing is Temporary Setback to War Against Terror’
The senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, Sunday Marshall Katung, said the bombing of his constituents by the military was regrettable, but it was a temporary setback to the ongoing war against terrorism and banditry in the country.
Katung said in a statement, “This incident is quite regrettable and a temporary setback to the renewed onslaught against terrorists and bandits in that area, Kaduna State, and the nation at large.
“I, therefore, commiserate with the families and community of the victims, the people, and the senator of Kaduna Central Senatorial District, and also the government of Kaduna State over the tragic incident.
“I also want to commend His Excellency, Sen. Uba Sani, for his prompt and courageous response by ordering the immediate investigation into remote cause of the mishap, and also meeting with community and religious leaders to avert the possible breakdown of law and order in the state. I enjoin citizens to trust this process and remain calm and peaceful while we all mourn.”
KASG Sets Up Committee to Compensate Bomb Victims
Kaduna State Government set up a committee for compensation and other forms of assistance to the families of victims of Tudun Biri bomb attack in Igabi LGA of the state. Overseeing Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said the deputy governor of the state, Hadiza Balarabe, disclosed this when she led a delegation of senior government officials on a condolence visit to the community.
The statement said the committee, which was made up of senior government officials, religious leaders, and representatives of the Nigerian Army, “will oversee mechanisms of compensation and other forms of government assistance to the victims”.
Aruwan said the deputy governor expressed heartfelt sympathies to the victims and their families, and stated that those injured during the incident were evacuated to Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital for necessary medical attention.
He said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) had been directed to deliver relief items to support the victims, while the government had taken responsibility for the medical care of the injured.
Aruwan also said the Minister of State, Defence, Bello Matawalle, led a delegation, comprising Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Lagbaja; and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr. Ibrahim Kana to the Government House, to condole with the government and people of the state over the unfortunate incident.