•We weren’t involved, air force absolves self
•Sani wants accidental killings investigated, Abbas mourns
Kingsley Nwezeh, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Kaduna State Government, yesterday, stated that the Nigerian Army, had claimed responsibility for the bombing of villagers during a Maulud Nabiy celebration at Tudun Biriin in Igabi Local Government Area of the state, and subsequently apologised for what they described as an accident.
But the Nigerian Air Force, has denied any involvement in the bombing, which reportedly killed many people with unconfirmed reports claiming as many as 80 persons might have lost their lives.
This, nonetheless, the Kaduna State Governor, Uba Sani, has called for thorough investigations into the alleged “accidental killings”.
At the same time, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, has expressed grief over the killing of persons at Tudun Biri community by a bomb said to have been inadvertently dropped by personnel of the Nigerian Army.
The army has said the airstrikes were inadvertent, saying operatives were targeting terrorists, but killed residents instead.
Overseeing Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan, said in a statement, yesterday, that the Army claimed responsibility for the unfortunate incident.
“The Kaduna State Government has received briefings on Sunday night’s attack which left several citizens dead and others injured.
“In a meeting presided over by the Deputy Governor, Dr Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, which had in attendance heads of security agencies, religious and traditional leaders, the Nigerian Army explained the circumstances which led to the unfortunate and unintended attack.
“The General Officer Commanding One Division Nigerian Army, Major VU Okoro, explained that the Nigerian Army was on a routine mission against terrorists but inadvertently affected members of the community.”.
The deputy governor, at the end of the closed door meeting, conveyed condolences of the government and people of Kaduna State to the families that lost their loved ones.
“As of the time of this update, search-and-rescue efforts are still ongoing, as dozens of injured victims have been evacuated to Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital by the Government.
“Heads of security agencies who attended the meeting include the Commissioner of Police, MY Garba, and Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) Abdul Eneche. The Chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of Jam’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) Professor Shafi’u Abdullahi, led other religious leaders. Also present at meeting was the District of Rigasa, Alhaji Aminu Idris in whose domain the incident occurred,” the statement added.
But a short statement by the Nigerian Air Force Headquarters said it was not involved in any air interdiction in the last 24 hours.
The air force stated, “The news making the rounds alleging that Nigerian Air Force (NAF) aircraft accidentally killed innocent civilians in Kaduna is false.
“Please, be informed that the NAF has not carried out any air operations within Kaduna State and environs in the last 24 hours.
“Also, note that the NAF is not the only organisation operating combat armed drones in the north-western region of Nigeria. It is also important to ensure that due diligence is always exhausted by the media before going to press with unverified and unconfirmed reports.”
On his part, spokesperson for the governor, Mohammed Shehu, in a statement, said the governor was shocked by the news of the incident, which led to loss of lives and injury to some.
Shehu said the killing was caused by a drone operation by the Nigerian Army on Sunday, stating that the affected residents had gathered to mark Maulud festivities at Tudun Biri, when the incident occurred.
Shehu quoted Sani as saying, “I have ordered immediate investigations into the tragic incident. We are determined to prevent a repeat of this tragedy and reassure our people that their protection would be prioritised in the sustained fight against terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.”
The governor, the statement further stated, directed the immediate evacuation of the injured to Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital for emergency medical attention, with the bill to be picked up by the state.
Sani appealed to the affected communities to be calm, stating, “Top government officials have been dispatched to the area to assess the situation, reach out to the families of the victims and advise the government on the immediate actions and measures to be taken to lessen the pains of the families.”
The governor expressed condolences to the families of the deceased victims and prayed for the speedy recovery of those injured and were receiving treatment at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital.
He said, “The Kaduna State government regrets the loss of lives and remains committed in ensuring that residents continue to live and conduct their legitimate businesses without fear.”
Meanwhile, Abbas expressed grief over the bombing said to have been inadvertently dropped by personnel of the Nigerian Army.
Abbas, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Musa Krishi, said the incident was said to have occurred on Sunday night, when hundreds of residents of the area gathered for the annual Maulud celebration.
Abbas expressed worry that innocent people going about their lawful activities got killed in such circumstances. He called for thorough investigation by the Nigerian Army to ascertain what led to such “a costly mistake.”
The speaker said the Nigerian Army should leave no stone unturned in unravelling what happened, with a view to preventing a repeat of such incident.
He sent his condolences to the people and government of Kaduna State, especially the families of those that lost their loved ones in the incident.