By Enyichukwu Enemanna
In response to the air strike in Kaduna, North West Nigeria on Sunday that killed at least 85 people, the United Nations has harped on the need for the military to review its rules of engagement.
The army drone targeting bandits mistakenly struck residents who were celebrating Muslim’s Maulud festival in Tudun Biri village in Kaduna state, an operational error for which the Nigerian Army has since accepted responsibility and tendered apologies. Several persons were also injured.
The military said troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and “misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits” before the drone strike was launched. The Army says bandits were mixing with residents, insisting that there were criminal elements in the 85 persons killed.
The UN human rights, Public Information Officer, Seif Magango on Wednesday however denounced the attack, saying it was the latest in at least four airstrikes that have resulted in significant civilian fatalities since 2017.
“While we note that the authorities have termed the civilian deaths as accidental, we call on them to take all feasible steps in future to ensure civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected,” Magango said in a statement.
“They must review rules of engagement and standard operating procedures to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the strike was based on the ‘pattern of activities’ of those at the scene, which was wrongly analysed and misinterpreted,” said Magango.
“There are serious concerns as to whether so-called ‘pattern of life’ strikes sufficiently complies with international law.”
“We urge the Nigerian authorities to thoroughly and impartially investigate all alleged violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, including deaths and injuries from air force strikes, and hold those found responsible to account,” said Magango.
“The government should also provide victims of any unlawful strikes and their families with adequate reparations.”
The military often relies on airstrikes in their battle against bandit militias in the northwest and northeast of the country, where jihadists have been fighting for more than a decade.