Nigerian Air Force had denied responsibility for the Kaduna attack but the army later admitted it. Photo: Others

By Abdulwasiu Hassan

Abdullahi Musa is distraught beyond belief after losing his three children in the Nigerian military's "friendly fire" on December 3 that wrought tragedy on the village of Tudun Biri in the middle of a religious event.

"What I can't stop thinking about is how one of my kids, a daughter, was so enthusiastic about her education," he tells TRT Afrika.

The "mistaken" bombing of the village in northwest Nigeria's Kaduna State killed around 90 people, triggering shock and outrage in a country where some 400 civilians have been killed in allegedly misdirected airstrikes since 2014.

President Bola Tinubu has promised a proper investigation into the circumstances leading to the bombing, which the Nigerian military says was targeted at terrorists.

Demands for adequate compensation to the families of the victims are growing by the day, although nothing would possibly dim Musa's pain.

Musa was one of the organisers of the Mawlid al-Nabi celebration commemorating the Prophet's birth anniversary. Besides his children, a dozen of his relatives died in the bombing.

Old wounds

Incidents of friendly fire have been reported at intervals since the beginning of Nigeria's war against the terror outfit Boko Haram and armed kidnapping gangs about a decade ago.

Before the accidental military strike in Kaduna, the country's security agencies had admitted on several occasions to "mistakenly" carrying out air raids on the civilian population.

While the extent of the casualties in some incidents since 2014 is disputed, the number of such strikes is at least 10.

The incidents

On March 16, 2014, the Nigerian army mistakenly killed ten people in an air raid in the northeastern state of Borno.

This was followed by another such incident on January 17, 2017, when a bombing of a civilian location in Borno State led to 53 civilian deaths.

On February 28 the following year, 20 people were killed in friendly fire in Borno.

About a year later, on April 11, 2019, the northwestern Zamfara State saw 11 people dying in a supposedly unintended strike.

Later in the year, tragedy struck again when 13 people were killed in a misdirected July 2. raid in Borno.

April 25, 2021, witnessed another military "mistake" that cost 30 lives in an air strike.

A few months later, a civilian location was mistakenly bombed on September 16 in the neighbouring Yobe State, killing nine people.

In Borno State, 20 more civilians were killed in a misdirected military attack on September 26.

Another six people were killed in similar circumstances on April 20, 2022, in the north-central Niger State.

Two others died in Katsina State in the northwestern part of the country on July 6.

On December 17, Zamfara State reported 60 civilian casualties in a mistaken military attack.

Another tragedy occurred in Niger State when an air raid killed 18 people on January 24 this year.

This was followed by the killing of 40 people in Nasarawa State on January 25.

On March 5, a military attack killed three people in Kaduna State, followed by one such death in Niger State on August 18.

Seeking a shield

So, what must the authorities do to forestall future such attacks?

Security agents should learn to better counter gunmen hiding in civilian populations. Photo: Others

Although the military has apologised for the latest incident, followed by army chief Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja making a conciliatory visit to Tudun Biri, analysts believe there is a need to explain to Nigerians the army’s standard operating procedure for the avoidance of misdirected air raids.

Dr Kabiru Adamu, a security analyst, believes the Nigerian parliament must ensure security agencies are held accountable for recurring friendly fire and get to the root of the problem.

"Although there has been a marked improvement in the country's security architecture, security agencies need to improve how they function," Dr Kabiru tells TRT Afrika.

He said security agents must also learn to counter the strategy employed by gunmen to blend into civilian populations, pointing out that using drones when this happens could be counterproductive.

Dr Kabiru also suggests that procurement of military hardware by the armed forces should be in tune with the requirements of Nigeria's topography and strategies to combat the guerilla tactics employed by outfits.

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TRT Afrika