Nigerian military strike on jihadist camp in northeast Nigeria accidentally kills at least 20 fishermen, security sources and local residents tell AFP.
On Sunday, a Nigerian fighter jet bombarded Kwatar Daban Masara in Lake Chad, which straddles Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.
IS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) controls the area.
Several civilians have been killed in Nigeria’s northeast, where the military has been battling a 12-year insurgency for the last 12 years. A second airstrike reportedly killed nine people less than two weeks ago.
Fishing in a freshwater lake on ISWAP’s territory was allowed for a fee after a ban on fishermen was recently lifted. A consequence of that was a large influx of fisherman who abandoned the area.
“Fisherman who go into that area do so at their own risk, since it is enemy territory and there is no way to distinguish them from terrorists,” one local intelligence source said.
According to the information we have received, the death toll is much higher than 20.
A local fisherman, Labo Sani, told AFP that the jet strike struck Kwatar Daban Masara at around 6 am (0500 GMT), killing around 20 fishermen.
Kwatar Daban Masara, which abuts the lake, is the “gateway” to several ISWAP camps and jihadist supply routes, said Sani, a local from nearby Daban Masara.
Sallau Arzika, another fisherman, said the fighter jet struck the village, killing many of its fishermen.
“The initial death toll was around 20, but has been increasing as many of the injured have died,” Arzika said.
Due to limited communications in the region, news of the incident was slow to emerge.
A message seeking confirmation or comment was not immediately responded to by a Nigerian air force spokesman.
The source who works with anti-jihadist militias in the area said the strike was based on “credible information” that ISWAP fighters had been gathering in the village since Wednesday.
The source said aerial surveillance and reports from other sources revealed terrorists were amassing in Kwatar Daban Masara and it was obvious they were planning an attack.
Several vehicles carrying men suspected to be foreign fighters arrived in the village’s past 10 days and were ferried to camps near the lake, according to another security source.
According to the security source, it was a preemptive strike to prevent the terrorists from carrying out their plans.
“There’s no way an innocent civilian would be at that location, and whoever is found there is definitely a terrorist,” he said.
At least nine civilians were killed during a Nigerian airstrike on a village in nearby Yobe state on September 16.
At the time, the Nigerian air force stated that its fighter jet was pursuing a group of jihadists in the area and it was investigating the incident.