The Nigerian military has killed and wounded children in an air attack in neighbouring Niger, according to a local governor in Niger, state television and an aid agency.
The attack took place in the village of Nachade in the region of Maradi, Niger, on Friday, a few kilometres from the border with Nigeria, said Chaibou Aboubacar, the governor of Maradi.
“There was a mistake with the Nigerian strikes on the border that resulted in victims on our territory in the village of Nachade,” said the official.
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“The victims are 12 children, seven of them dead and five wounded.”
According to the governor, “the parents were attending a ceremony and the children were probably playing when the strikes” hit them.
Four children died instantly and three others succumbed “to their injuries while being transported to hospital”, he said.
He did not say how he knew that Nigerian forces carried out the attack. Niger’s state television also said it was carried out by Nigerian forces, without providing evidence.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), which cared for some of the wounded, confirmed the strike. It said that 12 people died, including four children. Local inhabitants told MSF that Nigerian forces were pursuing targets who had fled a border town.
Investigation was under way
“As a matter of policy, the Nigerian Air Force does not make any incursions into areas outside Nigeria’s territorial boundaries. That’s our policy,” Major General Jimmy Akpor, Nigeria’s director of defence information, said. He said an investigation was under way.
The specific reason for the strike was not clear but banditry is known to be widespread in the region.
In April 2021, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said it feared a third centre for hardliner armed groups could emerge in this region of Maradi, exploiting the actions of Nigerian gangs and conflicts between local communities.
Niger already faces hardliner fronts. The Nigerian group Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), its dissident branch, are operating in the southeast while groups affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda are at work in the west.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Maradi is host to 100,000 Nigerian refugees who have fled the relentless attacks in their country.