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June 24, 2024

Nigerian Military Drone Strike Kills 85 Civilians By Mistake

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Dec 4, 2023

A Nigerian military drone strike meant to target armed bandits inadvertently struck a village and killed 85 civilians attending a religious gathering, in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. The Nigerian Air Force has admitted responsibility for the attack.

Strike Occurred During Religious Celebration

According to witness reports, the drone strike occurred around 2 p.m. on Sunday December 4th in the village of Godani, about 20 miles from the state capital of Kaduna. Over 100 civilians had gathered to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed at the home of a retired teacher.

Without warning, three missiles suddenly struck the compound and surrounding area, causing massive explosions that instantly killed and maimed scores of men, women and children.

“We were just gathering to mark the day, though some of us came late for the celebration,” said survivor Abdulwahab Mohammed, whose son and neighbors were killed. “Suddenly, I heard massive explosions that rocked the area and people were screaming and running in different directions.”

85 Confirmed Dead, Over 100 Injured

The SEMA relief agency reported that 85 fatalities have been confirmed following the attack. Senator Uba Sani, who represents the area, stated that over 100 people were injured and receiving urgent medical care.

Due to the severity and location of injuries, the death toll is expected to continue rising as villagers succumb to wounds in the coming days.

Survivors described a horrific scene of dismembered corpses and the dying calling out in agony while rescue workers scoured rubble and brush for additional victims.

“The bodies were shattered to pieces beyond recognition,” said villager Sale Ahmad. “It was difficult to know who is who.”

Military Believed Armed Bandits Were Gathering

In statements to the media, a Nigerian Army spokesperson said the military believed armed bandits linked to recent attacks in the area were gathering at the location, which prompted the drone strike.

“Unfortunately reports reaching Nigerian Air Force headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed and injured in the attack,” the military stated.

Military officials vowed to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and said they regret the loss of civilian life. Compensation will also be provided to the families of victims.

Strike Meant to Protect Infrastructure, Military Says

Sources within the military suggested the drone strike was part of an effort to protect infrastructure near the villagers and prevent terrorist attacks during the holidays:

“There was credible intelligence the gathering was a preparation for attacks against critical assets in the area, timed to coincide with the festive period,” an unnamed officer told media outlets.

Table 1: Timeline of Key Events

Time Event
2:00 PM, Dec 4 Over 100 villagers gathered in Godani village to celebrate Prophet Muhammed’s birthday
2:15 PM, Dec 4 3 missiles fired from military drone(s), striking gathering and surroundings
2:30 PM, Dec 4 Explosions subside, leaving scores dead and injured
Evening, Dec 4 Military spokespeople claim strike targeted bandits, admit civilian deaths
Morning, Dec 5 Death toll updated to 85 dead, 100+ injured
Afternoon, Dec 5 Buhari calls for formal investigation into drone strike

While infrastructure concerns may have motivated the mission, critics charge the military with acting on faulty intelligence that failed to identify the civilian nature of the gathering. This has led to calls for accountability over the strike.

“How could the military mistake a religious congregation of people – mostly women and children – for armed bandits?” asked civic group leader Musa Mohammed. “There must be consequences for this incompetence.”

President and Governor Call for Investigation

In the wake of mass public criticism over the erroneous attack, top Nigerian elected officials have called for investigations and greater oversight of drone warfare operations.

President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement expressing sorrow over the deaths and injuries caused by the wayward drone bombs. He directed the Chief of Air Staff to probe the circumstances leading to the strike.

“The Federal Government awaits the official report on the incident, which may help prevent future incidents,” said the President’s spokesperson.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai echoed the call for a “transparent investigation without delay.” He pledged government assistance for medical bills and burial expenses of the victims.

However, some activists remain skeptical the government will deliver meaningful accountability, oversight reforms, or compensation.

“Investigating themselves is a mockery,” said protest leader Aisha Yesufu. “We want neutral international drone strike investigators.”

Likelihood of Future Safeguards Unclear

With advanced military drone usage expanding across the developing world, the potential for civilian casualties from misdirected attacks has increased.

United Nations data shows over 850 civilians perished last year alone from wayward drone strikes – double the number from 2020. Most occurred in nations lacking oversight over emerging drone arsenals.

In theory, the international spotlight and political fallout from the Godani tragedy could spur Nigeria to implement safeguards preventing recurrences of mistaken drone strikes on civilians.

Table 2. Possible Civilian Drone Strike Protections

Reform Description Feasibility
Restricted Targeting Bar drone attacks lacking near-certainty of zero civilian deaths Low, militaries resist curbs
No-Strike Zones Prohibit drone strikes in civilian zones like villages, churches Moderate, could limit operations
Warning Systems Require warning shots or flare drops before missile launch High, alerts civilians
Double-Tap Bans Disallow second strike on rescue workers aiding strike victims Moderate, reduces later intel
Public Oversight Empower civilian boards to probe drone operations and ethics Low, militaries guard secrecy

However, most experts believe institutional resistance from military forces hooked on autonomous weaponry likely will prevent meaningful safeguards – both in Nigeria and beyond.

“Once the drone genie is out of the bottle, it’s almost impossible to put back in,” said international legal scholar William Burke. “Militaries enjoy acting as judge, jury and executioner from the skies – no matter what politicians pledge after a tragedy.”

Indeed, in the 48 hours since the deadly Nigerian drone strike, three smaller scale civilian casualty events from problematic drone attacks have been recorded in Libya, Somalia and Pakistan as well – barely meriting international attention.

“Tweaking a new technology to prevent civilian deaths requires extreme conscientiousness – a trait absent from most martial pursuits,” Burke noted. “I fear many innocents may perish before combat drones are tamed.”

Outrage Mounting Over “Robot Bombs”

Within Nigeria, public outrage and debate is rising over the proliferation of combat drones and their autonomous targeting algorithms which evidently struggle to distinguish armed fighters from innocent civilians.

Opposition leader Atiku Abubakar suggested an indefinite ban on further Nigerian military drone strikes until verifiable precautions are implemented to prevent civilian casualties. A minority of anti-technology activists demand banning drones outright.

However, such proposals likely lack majority public backing and sufficient political capital for adoption by Nigeria’s increasingly high-tech military establishment.

Yet the pressure for enhanced human control over robot weapons may expand as the death tolls mount from drone disasters like that visited upon the village of Godani last Sunday.

Sociologists note that the survivors of civilian casualties from “killer drones” often turn against the governments deploying them – complicating counterinsurgency and law enforcement efforts.

“The danger exists of drone strikes inadvertently manufacturing more extremists than they eliminate,” warned Dr. Rilwan Smith, who has studied the phenomenon. “This possible ‘Pandora’s box’ effect means the human costs of drone warfare may be larger and more counterproductive than rosy metrics used to justify their acquisition.”

For now, the villagers mourning their 85 deceased friends and family members have little appetite for theoretical discussions on the geopolitical implications of combat drones. They want justice, accountability and for their rural communities to no longer serve as proving grounds for autonomous weapons targeting algorithms.

“We feel like discarded guinea pigs used to test these aerial weapons simply because we lack money and connections,” said Aliyu Hassan, a teacher who lost his wife in the drone attack. “Our innocent blood should matter just as much to the powerful as those killed in Abuja or Lagos by such soulless machines.”

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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