The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has denied allegations that its stings against rampaging bandits in Zamfara were on innocent civilians.
It further challenged anyone with evidence that civilians were targeted during its recent strikes to produce such evidence.
This was in reaction to some media reports insinuating that the recent air strikes conducted by its personnel killed only civilians in the areas attacked and not bandits.
“The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been drawn to some media reports insinuating that the recent air strikes conducted by its Air Task Force for Operation DIRAN MIKIYA killed only innocent civilians in the areas attacked and not bandits,” read a statement issued on Friday by Ibikunle Daramola, NAF director of public relations and information.
“The NAF finds such reports rather ridiculous because most of the locations attacked are within the Rugu, Sububu and Kagara Forests general area, which are known armed bandits hideouts that have been attacked in the past, without any outcry. Besides, 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.”
Daramola said the locations attacked from April 8 to 11, 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,” he added.
“Furthermore, NAF pilots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engagement (ROEs) for the operation, do not attack any location if it is observed that non-combatants, especially women and children, are present. In such cases, the pilots would rather return to Base with their munitions unexpended. Consequently, it is inconceivable that the NAF would attack locations where innocent civilians reside.
“In view of the foregoing, the NAF finds it rather mischievous that anyone would spread such deliberate misinformation whilst the Service is doing its best to effectively respond to the challenges facing the good 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.”