Kaduna bombing: Death toll hits 120, villagers allege military bombed twice

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On Sunday night, an air attack designed to flush out terrorists accidentally hit civilians during a religious gathering in Tudun Biri.

While the Army claimed responsibility for the event, the National Emergency Management Agency estimated the death toll at 85 on Monday night, adding that 66 people were injured.

However, the unintentional blast on Tuesday drew harsher condemnation from the pan-Northern political and cultural association, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Jama’tu Nasril Islam, who said those found guilty should face punishment.

On their part, President Bola Tinubu, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar mourned the victims of the bombing.

As the nation mourned the dead, survivors of the bombing recounted their experiences.

Forty-five-year-old Saudatu Alamagani, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the community was bombed twice.

Alamagani, who narrowly escaped being killed in the attack, said the incident started like a Nollywood movie around 10pm when a large number of Muslims celebrating Maulud, the birthday of Muhammad, were bombed.

She said while celebrating the Maulud, “The military started raining bombs on us’’, adding that at first, the worshippers mistook their attackers to be bandits.

She stated that while everybody scampered for safety, dead bodies littered “everywhere.”

She stated that while members of the community went in search of motorcycle operators to convey the critically injured to the nearest medical facilities for treatment, the military bombed the community again.

“They bombed us twice,” she said, adding that “it all started around 10pm when the military started bombing our community. We were celebrating the Maulud, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

“While we were looking for motorcycles to convey those that critically needed medical attention to the hospital, the military returned with the bombardment. Many villagers including women, men, children, and even pregnant women were killed during the attack.

“Four members of my family were killed in the attack. Some of the bodies of the dead littered the ground.”

Saudatu appealed to the government to assist members of the community, especially victims’ families to cushion the effect of the bomb attack.

Another survivor, 60-year-old Sulaiman Umar, told our correspondents that the village was bombed twice.

He stated, “I was eating that night when we were bombed. Many people died. We could hardly identify our children; some with their intestines out. They bombed us twice. After the first round of bombs, they came back to bomb us again.

“I ran into a deep forest where I slept till daybreak. We covered the dead with leaves. We separated the males from the females and covered them with leaves.”

120 dead

Giving an update on the tragic incident, The Country Director of Amnesty International, Isah Sanusi, said officials of the organisation were on the ground at the affected communities and counted over 120 persons who died in the bombing.

He said, “I can confirm to you that the current number of casualties in the affected areas is more than 120 persons.”

He explained that there were at least 77 bodies buried in each of the mass graves, insisting that the casualty figure was higher than what NEMA stated.

“According to our contact who was at the scene of the mass burial, there were at least 77 dead bodies in each of the mass graves. There also 17 other persons who are from adjoining villages who lost their lives in the ugly incident,” he stated.

But the NEMA Chief Information Officer, Kaduna State, Halima Suleman, told one of our correspondents that the casualty figure of 85 persons released on Monday by the agency had not been updated when contacted on Tuesday.

She, however, stated that NEMA was intervening in the affected communities, as it took some of the injured persons to hospitals and was providing relief items to others.

“We are, of course, intervening in the communities, because our officials are on the ground there today. They took some persons to hospitals, provided relief items and gave moral support,” she stated.

But the pan-Northern socio-political organisation, ACF, and the Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar lll led Jama’atu Nasril Islam, called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the military bombing.

Reacting separately to the incident, the ACF described it as “horrific”, noting that the northern organisation was highly disturbed that such an operation could be contemplated and executed in the densely populated area, “suggesting an inexcusable, scandalous and plausibly incompetent failure of intelligence.”

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Tukur Muhammed-Baba, on Tuesday, the forum commiserated with the state government and families of victims, praying that “God grant the dead peace.”

The forum noted that efforts must be put in place to avert such “avoidable” loss of lives and property in the future, adding that communities in the Northern states had had enough problems with banditry and should not in any way be further inflicted with more pains.

Consequently, the ACF demanded an apology from the Nigerian Army as well as a full, thorough, honest, and open investigation of the incident, to establish what exactly happened.

According to the ACF, any and all those found guilty of professional or operational incompetence must be severely disciplined, and transparently so.

It also noted that the investigation must be undertaken with the full participation of the people of the affected community (who must not be intimidated into keeping quiet about the gory details of their losses).

“For emphasis, the Kaduna State Government has a duty to act to protect the interest of the victims and not the Nigerian Army personnel that perpetrated the incident.

“Full compensation must be paid for the dead in accordance with current Islamic diya value for individual lives.

“The injured must not only be fully treated free of charge but must also be rehabilitated on full recovery, as well as fully compensated for losses of livelihoods and incomes while on the road to full recovery,” the statement added.

On its part, the JNI in a statement by its Secretary-General, Prof. Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu, reiterated the organisation’s commitment to seeking justice for the victims’ families.

The statement partly read, “The Jama’atu Nasril Islam, representing the collective voice of the Ummah, stands in profound consternation and grief over the tragic incident that unfolded at Tudun-Biri village in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, during a Maulud celebration, as was reported.

“It is thus with heavy hearts that we express our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families, as well as the loved ones of the deceased victims, and we fervently pray for the swift recovery and healing of those injured.

“JNI therefore vehemently condemns this tragic incident in its entirety and calls for a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the devastating and most unfortunate event. We urge authorities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable in accordance with the subsisting laws.”

Tinubu grieves

Tinubu described the accidental bombing of locals in Kaduna State by the Nigerian Army as “very unfortunate, disturbing, and painful,” expressing indignation and grief over the tragic loss of lives.

This was as he sympathised with the families of victims, the people, and the government of Kaduna State.

Tinubu’s grief was conveyed through a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, titled ‘President Tinubu condoles with Kaduna State Government, families of victims over bombing mishap.’

Tinubu directed a thorough and full-fledged investigation and called for calm.

He also directed swift and comprehensive medical attention for surviving victims while praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased.

Mourning the dead, the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, said that the incidence of miscalculated air strikes was assuming a worrisome dimension in the country.

Atiku, who said this in an X post on Tuesday, stated, “I am grieved by the news of the drone airstrike that killed dozens of people and left scores of others with various degrees of injury in the Tudun Biri community in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Ironically, the victims of this unfortunate incident were celebrating the Maulud anniversary.’’

The Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Gombe State, Muhammadu Yahaya, expressed deep sorrow and heartfelt condolences to the families of the Maulud celebrants.

Yahaya, on Tuesday, extended his condolences to the government and people of Kaduna State, describing the loss of innocent lives as a heartbreaking tragedy.

The governor emphasised that while the fight against banditry and terrorism remained crucial, “it must be executed with the highest level of professionalism and care to prevent such heart-wrenching accidents.”

On his part, the Chairman of the Transparency International, Auwal Rafsanjani, said all security agencies involved in the bombings should be sanctioned. He faulted security agencies’ failure in intelligence gathering and sharing.

He further stated that identifying members of terrorist groups should ideally not be the job of the military, but the job of the police, the Department of State Services, and other relevant intelligence agencies, noting that some of the said agencies were grossly underfunded by the government.

Also, the Head of the National Coordinating Secretariat, United Action Front for Civil Societies, Olawale Okunniyi, said the military should rather be reoriented and re-jigged to operate on the side and in the interest of the masses.

“It is an unfortunate incident. Our military should be more revolutionary than reactionary. But presently they are reactionary and so they are not on the side of the people. They have to upgrade. We think that they must improve”, he said.

The Chairman of the Centre for Accountability and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, while lamenting the errors of the military, said those responsible must be held accountable and punished accordingly, as a deterrent for others.

DHQ panel

Meanwhile, the military high command at the Defense Headquarters, on Tuesday, said it would be investigating the accidental bombing and would establish a panel for this.

Responding to an inquiry from one of our correspondents, the Director of Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba said the military would probe the incident.

He said a panel would be instituted to look into the matter, adding that the details would be communicated.

Buba said, “Yes, the military will probe the incident. When the panel is set up, the details will be communicated accordingly, please.”

Also speaking on the issue, the Director of the Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu stated that with the on-the-spot assessment done by the Chief of Army Staff, he would be able to assemble the right persons to make up the panel.

He said, “From what the COAS has done now, which was to visit the scene of the incident, he would be able to gain insight into the expertise that would be required to carry out the inquiry. This will help in guiding us on the kind of persons that will be in that panel. I can’t speak on how long the investigation will take.”