Emergency response officials said at least 85 people have been confirmed dead after a “mistaken” army drone attack on a religious gathering in northwest Nigeria.
The victims were killed Sunday night by drones “targeting terrorists and bandits” in Kaduna state’s Tudun Biri village, according to government and security officials. They were observing a Muslim holiday.
“Eighty-five dead bodies have so far been buried while a search is still ongoing,” Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a statement that listed children, women and the elderly among the victims. At least 66 people were injured, the agency added.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu ordered “a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident.”
Civilians in Nigeria often find themselves in the crossfire of wider conflicts between Nigeria’s military and rebel groups, which have destabilized the country’s northern region for more than a decade.
Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president and the main opposition presidential candidate in this year’s election, described the latest civilian casualties as part of a “worrisome” pattern.
“The incidence of miscalculated airstrikes is assuming a worrisome dimension in the country,” Abubakar said.
Nigeria’s military often conducts air raids to fight against extremist violence and rebels, who often occupy dense civilian areas, according to Nigerian officials.
“Terrorists often deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centers,” Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, spokesman for Nigeria’s Defense Headquarters, said Tuesday following the deadly drone strike.
Another such attack happened in January when 39 civilians were killed in Nasarawa state. Similarly, in December 2022, dozens also died in Zamfara state.
Since 2017, some 400 civilians have been killed by airstrikes that the military said were targeting armed groups, according to the Lagos-based SBM Intelligence security firm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.