The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has rejected claims that innocent civilians and not bandits were killed in recent air strikes carried out by its Air Task Force for Operation Diran Mikiya in the areas attacked in Zamfara State.
The force made this known in a statement through its Director, Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola.
As you may know, following recent killings in Zamfara state, the Nigeria Airforce launched series of Air Strikes in the region which some Nigerians condemned, stating that only civilians were killed in the strikes and not bandits.
Reacting to the claims by some Nigerians, Air Commodore Ibikunle explained that most of the locations struck were within the Rugu, Sububu and Kagara Forests , which were known as hideouts for armed bandits’ and that these areas hav been struck in the past without any outcry.
He further narrated the procedures involved before air strikes were carried out in identified locations while ensuring that only targeted criminals were hit.
In his words:
“For the avoidance of doubts, the public is to please note that the locations attacked from 8 to 11 April 2019 were selected based on human intelligence (HUMINT) reports obtained from security agencies and other government sources, traditional and community leaders as well as reliable, vetted informants.
“These were all further confirmed by days of detailed day and night Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions to ensure proper targeting for avoidance of collateral damage. To further ensure this, as standard practice, NAF attack aircraft on air interdiction missions are accompanied by ISR platforms that guide them to designated targets.”
NAF further explained that its pilots, do not attack regions were non-combatants, especially women and children are present, stating that they are trained to operate that way.
It said that in cases were Unarmed civilians are spotte, its pilots would rather return to base with their munitions untapped.
It conceded that it was “inconceivable” that it would attack locations where innocent civilians reside and debunked the claims.
The Force added that it was mischievous to “spread such deliberate misinformation”, while it was doing its best to effectively respond to the challenges facing the people of Zamfara State and its environs.
“Rather than making such spurious and unsubstantiated allegations, NAF requests that anyone with evidence to the effect that innocent civilians were targeted by the NAF air strikes should produce such evidence,” the statement added.
NAF, however, promised to stay resolute in ensuring the safety peace and security of all Nigerians, as well as work together with other security agencies to curb the north-west region of all bandits.
The service also called for support from the people and encouraged them to debunk the alleged mischievous claims aimed at frustrating its operations.