On Sunday 5 June, a large group of fighters armed with AK-47s arrived on motorbikes and opened fire on multiple villages in Nigeria’s Kaduna state. As the inhabitants mobilised to repel the attack, a helicopter engaged in airstrikes against them, providing cover for the attackers. As of Thursday morning, locals count 45 people killed and 120 people injured.
The attackers reportedly shot indiscriminately for a number of hours before the villagers were able to repel them, but the appearance of the helicopter allowed the attackers to move freely and continue shooting as they also burnt down homes, farmlands, and livestock.
It’s unclear which casualties are due to the AK-47s, and which are due to the grenades and ordnance from the helicopter. However, the helicopter’s air support enabled the attackers to shoot more freely and fearlessly, so casualties from gunshots are further indirect consequences of the close air support (CAS).
Since 2010, AOAV has recorded 10,747 civilian casualties of explosive violence in Nigeria (4,329 killed, 6,418 injured) across 491 reported incidents. IEDS (non-specific, car bombs, and roadside bombs) are the leading cause of civilian casualties of explosive violence, with 88% (9,522) of civilian casualties attributed to IEDs. Air strikes are the reported perpetrators of 5% (534) of civilian casualties of explosive violence in Nigeria across 33 recorded incidents.
Prior to this incident, 100% (32) of incidents of air strikes in Nigeria recorded by AOAV were attributed to state actors, and 100% (369) of civilian casualties of air strikes in Nigeria since 2010 were attributed to state actors. Counting this incident, non-state actors are the reported perpetrators of 31% (165) of civilian casualties of air strikes.
If non-state actors have gained access to airstrike capabilities, this is an acute shift in the patterns of explosive violence previously visible in the country. The Nigerian government hasn’t commented yet.
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