ABUJA, Nigeria (TUSEN) — An aerial gunfire in Nigeria killed at least 21 members of a civilian defense group as they responded to an attack by gunmen in the country’s volatile north, witnesses said Wednesday.
Authorities have not said who was responsible for the attack, which residents say came from a drone. It took place in Niger state, one of the most insecure areas of Nigeria despite its proximity to the capital Abuja.
Ayuba Lagodo, a member of the civil defense group trying to protect villagers, said a drone strike struck shortly after residents reported an attack was underway in Galadimakogo. Such defense groups are common in northern Nigeria, where many hot spots of violence have an inadequate official security presence.
At least 21 people were killed after Tuesday’s strike. Lagodo said the death toll was likely to rise as many people were seriously injured or went missing.
While it was not clear who launched the drone, the blame soon fell on the Nigerian Air Force, which has carried out similar attacks in recent years.
Federal police in the state of Niger told The The US Express News on Wednesday that a military operation had been carried out in the state. However, spokesmen for the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Defense Headquarters have yet to respond to media inquiries.
Two state government officials have begun investigating the incident, said Mary Noel-Berge, chief press secretary to the governor of Niger.
Military airstrikes are common in Nigeria, where an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and violent attacks by armed groups in the northwest and central regions have left the country’s armed forces overstretched.
In 2017, more than 100 people were killed when a refugee camp was accidentally bombed. Some Nigerian Army soldiers died in 2021 after a fighter jet that security forces said was targeting extremists bombed their truck.
“’Casual’ strikes are very widespread in Nigeria. One of the things we can attribute this to is flawed information,” said Confidence MacHarry, a security analyst at Lagos-based security firm SBM Intelligence.
A lack of accountability also plays a role, he added.
“No person has been punished in the history of all these air strikes against civilians,” MacHarry said.