Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Defence Headquarters(DHQ), has denied media reports alleging that an airstrike conducted by the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE killed several civilians at Shokotoko Village in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State.
The DHQ, said there was no way the air task force platforms that is flown by highly trained pilots would bombard a civil populated area, noting that the said bombardment was targeted at a location solely occupied by the Boko Haram Terrorists.
Coordinator Defence Media Operations Major General John Enenche, who made this known said the operation was carried out based on credible intelligence reports, obtained from land forces and other security agencies as well as reliable, vetted informants.
He however said the armed forces has commenced investigation into the matter.
Enenche in a statement, said “The attention of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) has been drawn to some media reports indicating that air strikes conducted by the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE at Shokotoko Village in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State on Thursday, 9 April 2020, inadvertently led to the deaths of some civilians. For the avoidance of doubts, the AFN wishes to clarify the facts as given below.
“The operation, which was conducted on the night of 9 April and early hours of 10 April 2020, was based on credible intelligence reports, obtained from land forces and other security agencies as well as reliable, vetted informants, which confirmed that the target location was occupied solely by Boko Haram Terrorists.
“Moreover, as customary, the attack helicopter that executed the mission was accompanied by an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to ensure proper targeting for avoidance of collateral damage. Besides, it must be noted that, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) pilots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engagement (ROEs) for the operation, do not attack any location if it is observed that non-combatants, especially women and children, are present. In such cases, the pilots would rather return to Base with their munitions unexpended. Consequently, on the strength of the foregoing, the location was considered a legitimate target.
“Nevertheless, to allay public concerns occasioned by the aforementioned media reports, an investigation is being carried out and subsequent actions will be taken in line with extant regulations and best practices, while remaining accountable to the Nigerian people.
“We wish to reassure the general public that the AFN, in keeping with its professional responsibility, will continue to work assiduously to rid the North East of all terrorist elements with a view to facilitating a return to normalcy that would enable Nigerians in the area pursue their legitimate aspirations.”