Official death toll from Nigerian refugee camp airstrike passes 100
Thursday, January 26, 2017
On Monday Nigerian authorities raised the official death toll from January 17's airstrike upon a refugee camp to 236, though the BBC on Tuesday reported an official told them this was an error and the actual figure was 115. The military said at the time a jet mistook refugees for rebels.
|There are no words to describe the chaos [...] I saw the bodies of children that had been cut in two.|
—Aid worker Alfred Davies
The new toll updates previous estimates, which at the time of the incident were of at least 50 dead. The BBC on Tuesday reported an official told them the figure of 236 was erroneously reached by combining the numbers of dead and wounded. The camp in Rann, is home to thousands and lies near the northeastern border with Cameroon.
Home to those displaced by Boko Haram insurgents, the camp is in an area suffering famine. Farmers are unable to work owing to bombs on their land. The Red Cross was there to distribute food when the attack happened. Twenty Nigerian Red Cross workers were injured or killed. Médecins Sans Frontières are treating the majority of the wounded in makeshift tents in Rann, which lacks hospital facilities. A small number have been evacuated to Maiduguri.
Military officials said at the time thehad been dispatched to Rann after reports of "remnants" of Boko Haram in the area. The military claims it is in a "final push" against the rebel group. A promised investigation has materialised in the form of a panel of Air Force officials, with orders to complete the probe by the end of next week.
Human Rights Watch have called for compensation for victims. They say the military is not absolved of liability and suggest the camp's tents were obvious. Eyewitnesses say the aircraft circled twice, dropping multiple bombs, which appears corroborated by satellite imagery. President Muhammadu Buhari called it a "regrettable operational mistake" and has since departed for a holiday in London.
Journalists are barred from the military-controlled camp. Officials claim all the dead in Rann have been buried, and two more died in hospital in Maiduguri. Most of those killed were women and children. Soldiers were also amongst those killed. Eyewitnesses claim two days after the disaster in excess of 100 Boko Haram militants attacked the camp, fighting with soldiers for hours.
MSF field co-ordinator Alfred Davies said, "There are no words to describe the chaos[...] I saw the bodies of children that had been cut in two." MSF have called for "a transparent account" with the organisation's general director complaining refugees "were bombed by those who were meant to safeguard them". Some humanitarian groups have suggested the incident constitutes a war crime even as an accident, and Human Rights Watch is urging an independent probe. They say 35 structures were destroyed at two separate locations within the camp.
"We saw dozens of patients with multiple traumatic injuries, including open fractures and wounds to the abdomen and chest," said MSF doctor Mohammed Musoke. He described wounded children, including a crying baby with shrapnel in its neck and "a 10-year-old boy with a large, deep flesh wound to his thigh. The flesh was hanging loose on one side and you could see through to the bone."
Survivor Baba, 37, a refugee, said military aircraft were not an uncommon sight but the attacking jet behaved abnormally. "The plane flew back and forth, and we knew something was wrong before the bombing happened." His remarks were released by MSF.
Prior to the attacks camp residents had been starving, some dying from malnutrition. War and substandard infrastructure left Rann isolated, and the attack came as the Red Cross were about to distribute food they had just arrived with. The Red Cross say they have five weeks' worth of food.
The International NGO Safety Organisation claims 2016 saw in excess of 90 aid workers killed worldwide, with 154 injured.
- Geoffrey York. "Children ‘cut in two’: Rising death toll and new questions in Nigeria military attack" — , January 24, 2017
- "Nigeria air strike dead 'rises to 115' in Rann" — , January 24, 2017
- Haruna Umar (AP). "Official: 236 Dead at Camp Bombed by Nigeria's Air Force" — , January 23, 2017