MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA — A senior Nigerian military official said the cause of the accidental bombing of a displaced persons camp in the country’s northeast in January was the result of incorrect coordinates.
Nigerian Major General Leo Irabor told a visiting U.N. Security Council delegation Sunday that the January 17 bombing in the town of Rann, which killed 236 civilians, was a “grave mistake” that was the result of faulty information.
“The coordinates that were received gave indications that there were presence of Boko Haram within the vicinity,” Irabor said. “It’s just that the wrong coordinates were utterly given.”
He went on to say that although he was not trying to justify the military’s error, two days later Boko Haram did attack the town, which is located in Borno state – the epicenter of the group’s insurgency.
“Wherein that we killed 15 Boko Haram terrorists, and a vehicle mounted with an anti-aircraft gun was also recovered amongst other weapons that were recovered from the Boko Haram terrorists. So that of course, gives some correlation as to what intelligence we received before that encounter,” said Irabor.
In the incident, a military jet dropped two bombs on the camp for displaced persons in Rann. At the time of the attack aid distribution was taking place and many women and children were killed, as well as at least nine humanitarian workers from the Nigerian Red Cross and the International Committee for the Red Cross.
A delegation of U.N. Security Council ambassadors visited Maiduguri on Sunday to see conditions at an IDP camp and met with the military for a briefing on their battle against Boko Haram.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who is president of the council this month and a co-leader of the mission to West Africa, welcomed the investigation into the bombing.
“Bearing in mind the importance of accountability and learning lessons, I’m glad that the Rann camp incident is being followed up with an investigation and encourage you to make that public when possible and make sure measures are put in place to prevent a recurrence,” he said.
Human Rights groups had previously criticized the military for conducting the investigation without a broader group of investigators, including civil society.