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Kaduna: 85 civilians killed, 66 injured in mistaken Nigerian air strike during religious celebrations in Tudun Biri village, 3 Dec.

Late on Sunday 3 December, villagers gathered in Tudun Biri to celebrate Maulud, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. A military drone on a routine counterterrorism operation mistook their movement patterns for those of bandits, and an airstrike was called in.

 85 people have been buried, while up to 66 were injured in the strike, which came in two parts: the first strike hit the venue, while the second targeted people responding to the attack.

While Nigerian military leadership initially denied the air strike, they later confirmed that security forces mistook the civilians for militants. President Bola Tinubu has ordered a thorough investigation of the incident.

As has been widely documented, this is not the first time civilians have been killed and injured in Nigerian air strikes targeting armed groups. Since 2010, AOAV has recorded 83 airstrikes carried out by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in the country, 14 of which have killed 399 civilians and injured 310. Air strikes are the second most injurious explosive weapon to civilians in Nigeria after improvised explosive devices, which have caused 89% (9,649) of civilian casualties from explosive weapons in the country since 2010, across 439 incidents.

Borno and Kaduna are the most affected states for such attacks, with 376 civilians killed and injured in NAF air strikes in Borno, and 160 in Kaduna. Other states where civilians have been harmed in NAF strikes are Zamfara (82 civilian casualties), Adamawa (35), Yobe (32), Katsina (14), Niger (6), and Nasarawa (4).

While villages account for the majority of NAF strikes which have resulted in civilian harm, causing 242 civilian casualties across 9 incidents (168 killed, 74 injured), one strike on an IDP camp in 2017 caused 285 civilian casualties (115 killed, 170 injured). Other affected locations include public gatherings (152 civilian casualties), and agricultural lands (24).

Overall, AOAV has recorded 559 incidents of explosive weapons use in Nigeria since 2010, killing 4,455 civilians and injuring 6,407. So far, 2023 is the most injurious year for civilians in Nigeria since 2018, with 60 incidents of explosive weapons use resulting in 336 reported civilian casualties.  In 2022, Nigeria witnessed the highest levels of civilian harm from explosive weapons since 2018, predominantly due the increased activity of non-state actors in Nigeria: incidents of explosive weapon use by non-state actors rose by 138% in 2022, from 13 to 31 incidents, with Boko Haram and Islamic State’s affiliate in Nigeria, Islamic State-West Africa Province (ISWAP), as the main known perpetrators. Overall, 200 civilian casualties were attributed to non-state actors last year. 

Possibly in response to this, state-perpetrated incidents of explosive violence also increased significantly, rising by 278% from 9 to 34, with reported civilian casualties of such attacks increasing from 58 to 96. Reflecting this status quo, IEDs caused the majority, 59% (176), of civilian casualties in 2022, while air-launched weapons caused 33% (100). 

28/02/2014Air strike near Cameroon border kills 20 civilians in a villageBorno
17/01/2017Up to 236 civilians killed in Nigerian armed forces mistakenly bomb refugee camp for displaced peopleBorno
04/12/201735 civilians killed in Nigerian unguided rocket strike on eight villages in Adamawa state Adamawa
02/07/201913 civilians killed airstrikes on Gajigana village in BornoBorno
09/04/202013 civilians killed in airstrike on Shokotoko villageBorno
14/07/2021Woman and 4 children killed and 1 woman injured by Nigerian airstrike  in ZamfaraZamfara
16/09/20219 killed 3 children) and 23 injured, civilians, in Nigerialn airstrike on village in Yobe state, near Niger borderYobe
26/09/202120 fishermen killed by Nigerian airstrike targeting lakes in ISWAP territory, Kwatar Daban Masara, Lake Chad, NigeriaBorno
13/04/20226 children killed in Nigerian airstrike, NigerNiger
06/07/2022At least six civilian killed and eight injured in Nigerian air strike, KatsinaKatsina
08/11/2022Four cow herders killed (one woman, one child) in airstrikes in Abuni and Adudu villages, NasarawaNasarawa
18/12/202240 ‘bandits’ and 64 civilians killed in airstrikes and by ground troops Zamfara
05/03/2023Woman, two children killed, five civilians injured in NAF airstrike in Sabon Gida village, KadunaKaduna
03/12/202385 civilians killed 66 injured in mistaken naf airstrike on muslim religious celebration in tudun biri village, kadunaKaduna

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.