(NAN)The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has reacted sharply to allegations that its stings against rampaging bandits in Zamfara were on innocent civilians, challenging anyone with evidence that civilians were targeted during its recent strikes to produce evidence.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, made the request in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
He urged anyone with such evidence to produce it.
Daramola said the NAF finds it mischievous that anyone would spread such deliberate misinformation whilst the Service is doing its best to effectively respond to the challenges facing the good people of Zamfara and its environs.
The NAF was reacting to some media reports insinuating that the recent air strikes conducted by its Air Task Force for Operation DIRAN MIKIYA killed only innocent civilians in the areas attacked and not bandits.
” The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been drawn to some media reports insinuating that the recent air strikes conducted by its Air Task Force for Operation DIRAN MIKIYA killed only innocent civilians in the areas attacked and not bandits.
” The NAF finds such reports rather ridiculous because most of the locations attacked are within the Rugu, Sububu and Kagara Forests general area, which are known bandits hideouts that have been attacked in the past, without any outcry.
” Besides, the NAF target selection process for air operations is particularly rigorous and methodical in order to ensure proper target identification and thereby prevent strikes on wrong locations,” he said.
According to him, the locations attacked from April 8 to 11 are 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.
” In addition, NAF also has Special Forces (SF) personnel operating in some of the areas attacked, who provided additional intelligence.
” 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,” he said.
The spokesman said to further ensure this, as standard practice, NAF attack aircraft on air interdiction missions were accompanied by ISR platforms that guided them to designated targets.
According to him, 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, it is inconceivable that the NAF would attack locations where innocent civilians reside.
” In view of the foregoing, the NAF finds it rather mischievous that anyone would spread such deliberate misinformation whilst the Service is doing its best to effectively respond to the challenges facing the good people of Zamfara 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,” he said.
Daramola said the NAF, as a professional Service, would not want to join issues with any group of individuals, including traditional rulers, but will rather remain committed to ensuring the safety and security of all Nigerians.
Accordingly, he said NAF would continue to work assiduously, in synergy with sister Services and other security agencies, to rid the North West of all criminal elements.
He assured the general public that the NAF would not be deterred but would sustain its air operations to facilitate a return to normalcy that would enable Nigerians in the area pursue their legitimate aspirations.
” In this regard, the NAF hereby advocates public support, and not distracting and unsubstantiated allegations, as its personnel continue to sacrifice towards eliminating all threats to the security and, indeed, the development of our beloved Country,” he said.