A fresh calamity almost hit the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp Rann, Borno State, on Thursday night, 48 hours after its accidental bombing by a Nigerian Air Force plane.
About hundred Boko Haram fighters, fully armed, sought to overrun the camp but were repelled by soldiers, witnesses said.
The battle raged for about four hours, leaving 15 of the invaders dead, according to the commanding Officer of 3 Batallion of the Nigerian Army, Lt. Col. Patrick Omoke.
Omoke, who briefed the Chief of Army Staff, who was on a working visit to the area yesterday, said one of the Boko Haram terrorists was captured alive by the troops.
He also disclosed that the insurgents came in two hilux vehicles at about 5pm and were engaged for more than 30 minutes.
He said that one Hilux vehicle was seized from the terrorists while they fled with another one.
Omoke said interrogations revealed that the captured suspect speaks Shuwa Arab, the main language of the people of the area.
Some of the Boko Haram terrorists killed were discovered to have been dressed with IEDs to their bodies.
Gen Buratai, while interacting with the troops, said he was in Rann for an operational visit to understand the challenges the troops were facing with a view to improving on them.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) whose members have been assisting in treating the IDPs especially victims of Tuesday’s accidental bombing said yesterday that the death toll in the incident had reached 90.
Most of the victims were women and children.
An agency report yesterday said the Boko Haram botched attack occurred as aid workers were trying to help bombing victims.
“This incident happened just an hour after a (Doctors Without Borders) rescue helicopter left the town and has a traumatizing effect on everyone in Rann,” one aid worker was quoted as saying.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, was due at Rann yesterday.
The town is the headquarters of Kalabalge Local Government Area.
The Air Force has launched an investigation into the accident.
Doctors Without Borders said yesterday that “around 90 people were killed when a Nigerian air force plane circled twice and dropped two bombs in the middle of the town of Rann,” adding that the death toll could still rise further.
It cited “consistent reports from residents and community leaders” that as many as 170 people were killed.
“This figure needs to be confirmed,” it said in a statement.
The victims of this horrifying event deserve a transparent account of what happened and the circumstances in which this attack took place,” MSF General Director Bruno Jochum said.
Humanitarian workers were distributing food to between 20,000 and 40,000 people living in makeshift shelters at the camp when the bombing occurred.
MSF’s Jochum said civilians were paying the price of a “merciless conflict” between the government and Boko Haram, the jihadist group that wants to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.
One aid worker, who asked not to be identified, described the incident as “horrifying” and “a huge setback to humanitarian work in the northeast”.
‘We can’t understand why we were targeted’
Some of the survivors of Tuesday’s accidental bombing at Rann are still wondering why they were targeted by the Air Force jet that bombed the camp where they queued up for food.
Abubakar Shehu, one of the victims who lay with fractured arms and legs at the Surgical Ward of ICRC in Borno Specialist Hospital could not figure out why the camp was attacked.
“I cannot say that this was a deliberate attack on us, but I cannot still understand why this happened.
“Whatever it is, I have accepted my fate as a Muslim.”
Ya Kolo, a relation of one of the victims receiving treatment at the Specialist Hospital, believes that the victims should have justice and adequate compensation from the Federal Government.
“Those who did this must pay for it. The Federal Government must see that the victims are adequately compensated,” he said.
A woman, who identified herself simply as Aisha, was seen seated beside her three-year-old son who was affected by the air strike.
It was observed that many children, some without their parents, were being brought into the emergency unit of the hospital while some others were stabilised in the surgical ward.
Some of the relatives, mostly women, who sat outside the hospital ward, were not interested in speaking with the reporter.
Four days after the attack, Sani Adamu was yet to hear from her parents who live in Rann.
He said: “For the past four days, I have been visiting this hospital to get information about my parents, but up till this moment, I cannot determine whether they are dead or alive,” Sani said.
Like Sani, Hamsatu Adamu and many other persons were waiting to know about their relatives who live in Rann.
“Because we cannot travel to Kala/Balge to find out about the situation, we are always coming here to find out from the people that are brought in, to see if we can see any of our relatives or find out whether they are dead or alive,” Hamsatu informed.