THE Defence Headquarters, yesterday, said that the Nigerian Army’s aerial bombardment of Ligarma village in Kaduna State in which some innocent civilians were killed, actually took out several terrorists, who embedded themselves in the community while fleeing.

Speaking on a day that President Bola Tinubu sued for calm and ordered thorough investigation of the disaster, the DHQ apologized for the killing of civilians, saying, “the military views every civilian death in the cause of operations as a tragedy.”’

The tragedy elicited reactions yesterday, from Kaduna State Government officials and the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, who visited Tudun Biri community in Igabi LGA; the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF; Apex Muslim Organization led by the Sultan of Sokoto, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; and former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi.

Village infested with terrorists, civilians’ death tragic — DHQ

Director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, who made this known in a statement said this is why communities are to always alert troops of terrorists’ activities particularly when such a community is known to be infested with terrorists and their sympathisers.

DHQ said: “Such tragedies are needless and unwanted, which causes the armed forces to take extensive measures to avoid them.”

“It noted that terrorists often deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centres in order for the civilian population to bear the consequences of their atrocities.

The statement titled: “On Air Strike On Ligarma Village in Kaduna State,” read in part: “On 3 Dec 2023, at about 2200hrs and based on untoward activities by terrorists, The NA UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) detachment observed movement of terrorists at Ligarma, a terrorist-infested area of Kaduna State.

“Aerial surveillance captured movement of groups of persons synonymous with the terrorists’ tactics and modus operandi. The observed advance of the terrorists that were gathered posted a threat to key infrastructure within reach of the on-toward activities.

“Accordingly, the threat was eliminated to prevent the terrorists from unleashing terror on innocent civilians.

“The armed forces will continue to operate consistent with international law as it always has done.

“These terrorists as part of their tactics disguise themselves as civilians to perpetrate terror.

“Accordingly, we will continue to find innovative solutions to the challenges faced in the conduct of operations.”

Tinubu orders thorough investigation, calls for calm

Disturbed by the incident, President Tinubu, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Ajuri Ngelale, directed all relevant security agencies to carry out a thorough and full-fledged investigation on the bomb mishap, and also called for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap.

Tinubu sympathized with the families of victims, the people and government of Kaduna State over the airstrike mishap, which he described as “very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful, expressing indignation and grief over the tragic loss of Nigerian lives.”

“The President also directed swift and comprehensive medical attention for surviving victims while praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased.”

Army Chief visits Tudun Biri, commiserates, tenders apology

During his visit to Tudun Biri community, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, accompanied by Principal Staff Officers from the Army Headquarters and the General Officer Commanding 1 Division, met with the Dangaladima Zazau, the District Head of Rigasa, Architect Aminu Idris, other leaders and members of the community.

The COAS expressed regrets on the unfortunate mishap, describing it as a very disheartening occurrence.

Lagbaja noted that in the recent past, the general area of Tudun Biri and adjoining villages were infested with armed bandits, who terrorized the communities, until troops of the Nigerian Army started conducting operations to sanitize the area and make it habitable.

He pointed out that the troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to those of the bandits, before the drone strike.

The COAS stated that he was in Tudun Biri to personally witness the site of the mishap and to convey sincere regrets and unreserved apologies on behalf of the Nigerian Army to the District Head and people of the community, as well as the Government and entire people of Kaduna State.

Furthermore, Lagbaja disclosed that he has ordered a thorough inquiry into the incident to ascertain and identify areas of deficiency that led to the inadvertent disaster.

He disclosed that the findings and overarching outcome of the investigation will guide the NA in meticulously and professionally seeking and applying lasting solutions to identified lapses and deficiencies in both the human and Artificial Intelligence variables that will forestall future recurrence.

District Head of Rigasa, Architect Aminu Idris, in his remarks said despite the enormity of the incident, the Nigerian Army showed integrity in accepting responsibility for the drone strike and urged its leadership to intervene in bringing succour to hospitalized victims and the community for their losses.

He maintained that the community is a mixed community of both Muslims and Christians and that the victims are of both faith, contrary to earlier insinuation that the community is solely Muslim.

General Lagbaja also commiserated with the Chairman Jamaa’ atu Nasru Islam, Kaduna State Prof Shafiu Abdullahi and other clerics.

The Chief of Army Staff equally visited affected victims at the Barua Dikko Teaching Hospital Anguwan Rimi, Kaduna, where he expressed concern for their speedy recuperation and made an immediate donation of several provisions for their upkeep.

Kaduna govt officials storm bombed village

A delegation of Kaduna State government officials led by the Deputy Governor, Dr Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, also visited Tudun Biri village.

Speaking to the people, the deputy governor said that the purpose of the visit was to commiserate with the families of the victims of the Sunday tragic incident.

Recall that the State Governor, Senator Uba Sani, had earlier ordered the immediate investigation of the military airstrike with a view to avert recurrence.

Bombing mishap reprehensible, condemnable —Sultan’s JNI

Speaking on the incident, the JNI expressed disbelief that the military would kill innocent civilians in such a manner knowing full well that before any operation is carried out, due diligence is usually carried out, backed with irrefutable intelligence.

In a statement issued by Professor Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary-General of the JNI, the apex Islamic organisation, said: “The purported bombing of Muslims faithful by the supposed aerial patrol, resulting in the reported loss of no fewer than 100 innocent lives is a reprehensible and deeply condemnable act.”

“ Such a callous and devastating incident is utterly antithetical to the principles of peace and unity that we, as a community, strive to uphold at this critical moment of the Nigerian nationhood, and the act portends danger, especially to military-civil relationship.

“Moreover, JNI is in utter disbelief that the military will act in such a manner knowing fully that before any operation is carried out due diligence is usually carried out, backed with irrefutable intelligence. What happened to the airstrike control procedure?

“Is it not the norm that directives issued by competent military authority for combat engagement are well delineated? Does it not require a commander to plan minimal causality, while conducting attacks, where there may be civilians and/or seek to avoid, if not feasible, minimize the incidental harm to civilians? What about the theory of minimal collateral damage?

“Isn’t the military reflective of the principles of military necessity, humanity, proportionality and distinction? One really finds it difficult to comprehend what happened in Tudun-Biri, as it signals a very wrong path to thread, especially that the Nigerian citizens’ buy-in should be sought more at this critical moment of the fight against all forms of criminalities in Nigeria.”

ACF, Atiku demand probe, compensation

In like manner, the ACF expressed shock over the mishap, and called for a probe as well as compensation for the victims.

In a statement by Prof. T. A. Muhammad-Baba, National Publicity Secretary, the ACF said: “The Nigerian Army has since admitted responsibility for the attack, dubbed ‘inadvertent’ by General Officer Commanding (GOC) of One Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General VU Okoro, said to have occurred when troops were on a routine military mission. The Army authorities remain mute about casualty figures, even if tentative. However, from what can be discerned from various reports, as many as 80 (and possibly more) people, mostly children and women, were killed with scores injured. Further details are still being awaited. “

“ACF is perplexed and deeply disturbed that such an operation could be contemplated and executed in this densely populated area, suggesting an inexcusable, scandalous and plausibly incompetent failure of intelligence. It is indeed trite to say that sound intelligence is the fulcrum of military operations, While the army authorities have come out with the usual platitude of “investigating” the matter, there is a need to be more forthcoming on the details, even if to douse the feeling in many quarters that there was an initial attempt to downplay the incident except for the vigilance of some members of the public.”

The tragedy ought not to and should never have happened. No community, anywhere in the country, should ever have to suffer such horrific and tragic incidents,” ACF added.

Also, the 2023 Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar urged the Federal Government to launch a thorough investigation into the drone airstrike to avert future occurrences.

Atiku urged that no resource should be spared in medical attention to the injured and assistance to the families of the dead.

Military must exercise utmost caution —Obi

On his part, the 2023 Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi, called on the military to exercise utmost caution and professionalism in feature campaigns “to avoid this kind of embarrassment to both the military and the country.”

He cautioned that “any incident that leads to harm or loss of lives of the innocent people they are meant to protect should be avoided.

“Even though the mishap is one too many, the security agencies should work with reliable human intelligence reports on ground before any offensive attack to avoid innocent casualties as has been reported in this case.”

Praying that such a mistake leading to a sorrowful outcome, as this, never happens again in our country, he said that “it is regrettable that the problem of insecurity in our nation has persisted for so long that we are now paying such unintended human costs as collateral damage.”