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Death Toll in Mistaken Bombing of Camp in Nigeria Climbs to 70

In the wake of the bombing, human rights groups were trying to assess how the military could have mistaken such a crowded camp for Boko Haram fighters. A terrorism and counterterrorism researcher for Human Rights Watch circulated on Twitter an aerial view of the encampment dotted with tents and other structures. It is situated near a Nigerian military post.

The Nigerian military has been engaged in a fierce battle against Boko Haram, which has ties to the Islamic State, for years. Civilians have often borne the brunt of the war against Boko Haram as soldiers have been accused of rounding up and killing innocent people they suspected of being militants. The military has also been accused of accidentally killing civilians in airstrikes in the past.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has declared victory over the militants on several occasions. But the conflict endures, even though military operations have made huge progress killing and arresting hundreds of fighters.

On Tuesday, Mr. Buhari said he regretted the error, and Nigerian military officials also expressed remorse, acknowledging they had targeted the wrong spot.

The governor of Borno State said friendly fire incidents have occurred in wars throughout history. “It is gratifying that nobody made any effort to hide anything or sweep things under carpet,” Gov. Kashim Shettima said. “War comes with different kinds of very terrible prizes and this is one of such painful prizes.”

The deadly mistake comes as the United States Congress is considering a sale of warplanes to the Nigerian government. Some politicians and humanitarian workers have criticized selling warplanes to a military with a poor record on human rights.

Matthew Page, a consultant who until recently was the State Department’s top expert on Nigeria, criticized the use of air power against militants whose main tactic in recent weeks has been sending one or two suicide bombers at a time in attacks on crowded markets or mosques.

“Using air power in this late phase of a counterinsurgency is ham-fisted,” Mr. Page said. “The Nigerian government would be wise to use carefully targeted, intelligence-driven operations, not aerial bombing campaigns, to mop up what’s left of Boko Haram.”

In Rann, the International Committee of the Red Cross said six people in critical condition were evacuated on Tuesday by helicopter to Maiduguri. About 90 patients remained with 46 still needing to be evacuated, according to the organization.

“The conditions for postoperative care are not adequate, so all the patients must be evacuated to Maiduguri as soon as possible,” said Laurent Singa, a surgeon for the Red Cross in Rann.

Mausi Segun, the senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, called on the government to compensate the victims and their families.

“Even if there is no evidence of a willful attack on the camp, which would be a war crime, the camp was bombed indiscriminately, violating international humanitarian law,” she said in a statement. “Victims should not be denied redress merely because the government decided the bombing was accidental.”

Source: NYT > World

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