President Tinubu orders probe as army drone kills 85 Nigerians in error

A Nigerian Army personnel mounting one of its armoured personnel carriers. FILE PHOTO

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has ordered a thorough investigation into a weekend military drone attack that killed at least 85 people, including women and children in northern Kaduna, the latest military assault to hit civilians.

The President reacted on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, against the accidental killing of civilians in northern Nigeria which has sparked widespread criticism.

Nigeria’s military, which is backed by the United States, Britain and other non-Western allies in a long war against Islamist insurgents in the northeast, has also been unleashing deadly aerial assaults in other parts of the country.

Kaduna is 163 km (101 miles) from the capital Abuja and among northwestern and north-central states grappling with kidnappings for ransom and killings by armed gangs, which security forces have been targeting using aerial assault.

The National Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday at least 85 people had died during the attack and 66 were injured, giving the first official confirmation of the death toll.

Tinubu, who is attending the Cop28 Climate Summit in Dubai, called Sunday night’s incident in the village of Tundun Biri a “bombing mishap,” which was “very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful,” his spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said in a statement.

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“The President directs a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and calls for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap,” said Ngelale.

Nigerian Defence Headquarters spokesperson Major General Edward Buba said aerial surveillance captured the movement of persons “synonymous with terrorists” and “the threat was eliminated to prevent the terrorists from unleashing terror on innocent civilians.”

“The military views every civilian death in the cause of operations as a tragedy. Such tragedies are needless and unwanted,” Buba added.


Witnesses said villagers were gathered for the annual Maulud Muslim celebrations when they heard a loud blast after 9:00 pm (2000 GMT), forcing people to scatter to safety.

When the villagers realised it was a bomb explosion, they started helping those who were injured and moving the dead. But another blast was heard some 30 minutes later, killing more people, the witnesses said.

Musa Shehu said he had lost two wives while his youngest daughter was injured and in hospital, Reuters said.

“Body parts, mostly children, were littered on building roofs and tree branches. We packed them in empty grain bags and deposited them alongside bodies of the dead that were not seriously mutilated,” Shehu said by phone.

Shehu Bala, another survivor, said the villagers, who came from four villages, were still in shock seeking answers.

“We counted 97 bodies, many of them are women and children. Some infants who survived were taken away from their dead nursing mothers. It’s a terrible experience,” Bala said.