(Abuja) – Nigerian authorities should conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into the January 17, 2017 airstrikes that hit a settlement for displaced people who had fled Boko Haram, killing at least 70 people, including nine aid workers, and wounding at least 120, Human Rights Watch said today. The government, which has stated that the Nigerian air force accidentally carried out the strikes, should compensate those who were injured and the families of those killed as a result of any violation of international humanitarian law or the right to life.
Human Rights Watch reviewed satellite imagery of the town of Rann, Kala Balge Borno State, recorded on the morning after the attack and identified two distinct areas of destruction in densely populated areas on the western side of the town that are consistent with the detonation of multiple air-dropped munitions. At least 35 structures were destroyed in the attack, including shelters for displaced people.
“The Nigerian military has taken an important and rare step in accepting responsibility for this horrible attack,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Now it should go further by explaining how it came to attack a displacement settlement, and by compensating the wounded and relatives of those who lost their lives.”
Although there is no clearly delineated displacement camp in Rann, the town includes hundreds of tents for displaced people located among residential buildings at the two sites that were hit. The tents are easily visible from the air, making it difficult to understand how an accident of this nature could have occurred. The presence of what appears to be a large Nigerian military compound on the edge of town, 100 meters from one of the impact sites, raises further questions, as the military would have been expected to know that the area was filled with civilians and to take adequate precautions not to harm them during any operation targeting Boko Haram fighters who might have been in the area.