The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has rejected the allegations that only innocent civilians and not bandits were killed in recent air strikes conducted by its Air Task Force for Operation Diran Mikiya in the areas attacked in Zamfara State.
The service condemned the reports in a statement by NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola.
In the statement posted on its Facebook page on Friday, the air force described the reports as “ridicu
It explained that most of the locations attacked were within the Rugu, Sububu and Kagara Forests general area, which were known armed bandits’ hideouts that have been attacked in the past without any outcry.
It further explained the procedures involved before air strikes were carried out in identified locations while ensuring that only targeted criminals were hit.
The statement said, “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.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the public is to please note that the locations attacked from 8 to 11 April 2019 were 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.
“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. To further ensure this, as standard practice, NAF attack aircraft on air interdiction missions are accompanied by ISR platforms that guide them to designated targets.”
NAF explained that its pilots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engagement (ROEs) for the operation, do not attack any location if it was observed that non-combatants, especially women and children were present.
In such cases, it said the pilots would rather return to base with their munitions unexpended.
It affirmed that it was “inconceivable” that it would attack locations where innocent civilians reside and rejected the claims.
The service added that it was mischievous to “spread such deliberate misinformation”, while it was doing its best to effectively respond to the challenges facing the people of Zamfara State 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,” the statement added.
NAF, however, vowed to remain committed to ensuring the safety and security of all Nigerians, as well as work in synergy with other security agencies to rid the north-west region of all criminal elements.
It gave assurance that it 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.
It also called for the people’s support and urged them not to be distracted by what it termed unsubstantiated allegations.