Nigeria’s air force has killed at least 50 civilians and wounded more than 100 in an air strike intended to hit Boko Haram militants in the country’s north-east, according to Médecins Sans Frontières.
The aid agency did not comment on how many of its staff had been injured or killed in the strike that mistakenly hit Rann camp for displaced people in Borno state, which accommodates some of the more than 2m Nigerians forced from their homes by the Islamist insurgency.
“We can say at least 50 people were killed and 120 were wounded,” said Valerie Babize, MSF spokeswoman. The organisation provides medical care at the camp and elsewhere in north-east Nigeria, and the total number of people in the remote facility is estimated at between 15,000 and 40,000, she said.
Rabe Abubakar, a spokesman for the armed forces, did not immediately answer requests for comment.
Another military official had earlier told Reuters that the army was trying to determine the number of civilians who had been accidentally killed and added that an unknown number of Red Cross and MSF staff had also been killed.
Before the Nigerian armed forces launched its offensive against the Islamist militant group in early 2015, Boko Haram fighters controlled territory roughly the extent of Belgium. Pillaging and kidnapping their way through towns and villages, they killed about 15,000 people in their campaign to establish an Islamic state.
Though the insurgents have been forced out of the large towns they once controlled, they have stepped up their attacks since the end of the rainy season more than a month ago. The drier weather has made it easier for fighters to move in the bush.
At the weekend, two people were killed in twin suicide bombings in Maiduguri, the largest city in the north-east.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which operates at Rann camp, said six staff members of its partner organisation, the Nigerian Red Cross, had been killed. “They were bringing desperately needed food for more than 25,000 people,” said Aleksandra Matijevic Mosimann, ICRC spokeswoman in Abuja, the capital. She said the staff members had arrived at the camp by road in the morning with food stocks and were about to distribute them when the strike came.
The camp is near the border with Chad and Cameroon, and MSF surgical teams in those two countries were ready to treat the wounded once they were evacuated, a member of the organisation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
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