Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has set up a Board of Inquiry (BOI), to investigate the veracity of the claims by some traditional rulers in Zamfara State that some innocent citizens were killed during its raids on armed bandits hideouts.
The panel to be headed by an Air Vice Marshal (AVM), is expected to work with the Zamfara State government, Council of Chiefs and other stakeholders to verify the authenticity of the names of the alleged deceased persons released by the traditional rulers.
The panel is also expected will begin its investigation from Katsina, the headquarters of Operation DIRAN MIKYA, from where it will proceed to Gusau and other relevant locations in Zamfara State to scrutinise all the evidence presented by the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs.
NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, made this known at a media briefing in Abuja.
According to him, “the statement was apparently in response to the press release issued by the NAF on April 12, challenging the veracity of Zamfara State Council of Chiefs’ earlier claim that NAF air strikes killed only innocent civilians in the areas attacked and not bandits, requesting anyone with substantiated evidence to produce such.”
He also debunked claims of the use of bombs by the NAF during the raids as false and misleading.
He said: “As a responsible service, the NAF also wishes to clarify that in all its air strikes in the North West, bombs were never used. “This has been deliberately done in view of the nature of the threat as well as the operational environment, despite the fact that the armed bandits have anti-aircraft guns in their possession.”
“It is pertinent to re-state that, before any attack mission is conducted or any target is engaged, the NAF ensures that it carries out detailed ISR missions, as a follow-up to reliable credible human intelligence to ensure proper targeting in order to, as much as possible, avoid collateral damage. “Furthermore, as standard practice, NAF attack aircraft on air interdiction missions are accompanied by ISR platforms that guide them to designated targets.
“Moreover, NAF pilots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engagement for any operation, do not attack any location if it is observed that non-combatants are present.
He assured that “the NAF would not relent in its unwavering commitment to sustain its operations to flush out armed bandits from Zamfara and its environs in collaboration with other security agencies.
“The NAF wishes to restate that it will always be responsible and will not take any action that will jeopardise the safety and security of the people of Zamfara State.”