Death toll rises in refugee camp bombing
Nigeria | Nigerian official says 236 people died in the air strike
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 1/24/17, 11:00 am
The death toll from an accidental military bombing of a camp for internally displaced people in northeastern Nigeria has risen to 236 people, a government official confirmed Monday. Initial reports claimed about 50 people died from the air strike.
“We buried 234 corpses in Rann after the bombs were dropped on the IDP camp,” said Babagana Malarima, chairman of the Kala Balge local government council of northeast Borno state. “We have two other injured persons that died while in hospital in Maiduguri.”
Nigeria’s commander of military operations in the Northeast, Gen. Lucky Irabor, said the Nigerian Air Force accidentally struck the camp in Rann following reports that Boko Haram insurgents were in the area. Security officials have started an investigation into the attack, he said.
The camp housed about 20,000 refugees. The International Red Cross said six of its Nigerian staff members died and 13 others sustained injuries. Health responders flew several of the wounded to Maiduguri, Borno’s capital, Malarima said.
Doctors Without Borders last week said the death toll had risen from the initial report and residents claimed more than 170 people had died in the attack. Workers were distributing aid in the camp when the attack happened, the group said. The fighter jet circled the camp twice before dropping two bombs.
“People had sought safety in what they thought was a protected site,” said Bruno Jochum, Doctors Without Borders general director. “Instead they were bombed by those who were meant to safeguard them.”
Human Rights Watch lauded the government’s quick move to accept responsibility for the attack and called for a thorough and impartial investigation. Satellite imagery of the camp revealed its tents for the displaced were visible from above, the group noted.
“Now [the government] should go further by explaining how it came to attack a displacement settlement, and by compensating the wounded and relatives of those who lost their lives,” said Mausi Segun, the organization’s senior Nigeria researcher.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.