Fighter jet kills civilians in Borno anti-terror raid

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• Red Cross officials, doctors, soldiers among casulties
• Shekau claims responsibility for UNIMAID blasts
• Army offers N.5m reward on suicide bombers

A fighter jet misfired yesterday, killing some humanitarian aid workers of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and the Medicines Sans Frontiers as well as other civilians in Kala Balge, Borno State during an operation.

The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor disclosed this at a press briefing in Maiduguri.

Even though the government claims that Boko Haram has been defeated, the group has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings. With the disaster that has followed the efforts of the military to rout out the remnants of the terrorists, the troops need to be more cautious in their attacks on suspected Boko Haram members.

“This morning, we received a report about the gathering of Boko Haram terrorists around Kala Balge area of Maiduguri. I coordinated and I directed that the air component of the operation should go and address the problem.

“Unfortunately, the strike was conducted but it turned out that other civilians were somewhere around the area and they were affected.

“So far, it is a little bit disturbing. There are casualties; there were deaths and injuries but on the actual number of casualties, we would get back to you later.

“I am yet to get the number of casualties of civilians killed, but two soldiers were also affected. Some humanitarian staff of Medicines Sans Frontiers and some staff of International Committee of ICRC were also affected. We are sending helicopters to evacuate those that were critically wounded, including our wounded soldiers,” Irabor said.

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed regret over the accidental bombing and pledged “federal help” for the state government in attending to the “regrettable operational mistake.”

Buhari, while condoling with families of the dead, in a statement yesterday, wished the wounded divine succour, leading to full recovery, just as he sympathised with the state government.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Boko Haram group, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts that killed four people including a professor and injured 17 others at the University of Maiduguri on Monday.

In an audio recording on YouTube, Shekau said that the mosque was attacked because it was “ungodly.”

He also berated the Nigerian army on its proclaimed victory over insurgents in Sambisa forest, saying none of his men was killed by the army.

“The bomb that happened this morning, it’s my people. Don’t deceive people that it’s a mosque, how would you build a mosque and do ungodly things in it?” Shekau said in the recording.

“You didn’t kill anyone in Sambisa. We are praying that we don’t change; Koran is our teacher; this is the message we are sending to you. Are you [Buhari] as powerful as God?” he said.

Shekau spoke as Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose faulted the Federal Government claims that the Boko Haram insurgents have been technically defeated.

While fielding questions from reporters yesterday in Ado Ekiti, the governor also blamed President Buhari for the killings of “innocent” Nigerians in the Southern Kaduna and accused the government of hiding the truth from the public about the extent of massacre that took place.

Worried about the continued attacks by the terrorists, the Nigeria Army has announced N500,000 cash award for anyone with information on suicide bombers. Telephone numbers of those to contact for relevant information were released.

In a statement issued yesterday evening the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman said the monetary reward had become necessary as the “spate of suicide bombings in the North East and in particular, Maiduguri and Madagali metropolis is assuming a disturbing proportion.”

Usman said the reward of N500,000 would be “for any information that leads to the arrest of a suicide bomber, guide to the suicide bomber, or discovery of the transit house or factory of the suicide bombers.”

The statement gave the numbers of those to be contacted for immediate response as the Theatre Commander, Operations Lafiya Dole, Maiduguri on 09064823221; the General Officer Commanding 7 Division Maiduguri; and Commanders, 7 Division Garrison Maiduguri, 7 Division Military Intelligence Maiduguri, 28 Brigade Mubi, 26 Brigade Gwoza and the DAPR.

While assuring would-be informants of total confidentiality and prompt action, Usman advised members of the public to be vigilant.

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