Military bombing that killed 90 a ‘mistake’
THE EVENTS leading up to the deadly aerial bombing by the Nigerian military of Rann, which killed more than 90 people and wounded 120, remain unclear a week after the attack in a remote part of the restive north-eastern Borno State.
A team from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was providing medical assistance in the town when the bombing occurred. The organisation says outside of what its staff witnessed, consistent reports from community leaders and survivors say as many as 170 people were killed – the majority being women and children.
Baba, a 37-year-old Rann resident, who was wounded in the attack, said he and other residents were used to seeing jets fly over Rann in the past, but on this day something else happened.
“(Last week) Tuesday, it was different – the plane flew back and forth and we knew something was wrong before the bombing happened. When the first bombing happened, I was far from it. But it happened close to the military barracks and I thought that if a bomb could drop so close to the barracks, we were in real danger,” Baba recounted.
The Nigerian government, which has been locked in a merciless battle with Boko Haram for several years, described the attack as a “regrettable operational mistake”.
Many people were fortunate to escape the attack as they were queuing for their share of essential items from MSF, which was distributing mats and blankets outside the town centre.
Due to the ongoing conflict and high levels of insecurity in the area, the MSF team arrived in Rann on January 14 to evaluate people’s nutritional status and assess their medical needs following reports that 21 people had died due to malnutrition the week before.
Alfred Davies, MSF field co-ordinator in Rann, said he barely had words to describe the chaos that followed the bombing. “Some people had broken bones and torn flesh; their intestines hanging down to the floor. I saw bodies of children that had been cut in two. The tents were strewn with wounded, and there was barely any room to move. Many people were outside, lying on mats under the trees.” Davies says MSF staff were overwhelmed by the number of critically wounded.
MSF has condemned the attack, calling on all parties to the conflict including the government of Nigeria to ensure the safety of civilians and protection of people.
Nigerian troops patrol in the aftermath of the bombing in Rann, Nigeria.