Two months after receiving several fighter jets from the United States in an apparent bid to intensify its war on militancy, the Nigerian military has killed dozens of fishermen in an airstrike in the country’s conflict-ridden northeast, a report says.
As many as 20 fishermen were accidentally killed after an air force fighter jet targeted a militant camp in the village of Kwatar Daban Masara in the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, AFP reported on Tuesday citing two security sources.
The incident which occurred on Sunday came after a ban on fishermen was lifted in the area, which is a stronghold for Daesh West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The ISWAP split from Boko Haram five years ago amid a conflict. It separately pledged allegiance to Daesh.
"Any fisherman that goes to that area does so at his own risk because it is an enemy territory and there is no way of differentiating them from the terrorists," one of the sources said, adding that the death toll is much higher than 20.
The intelligence source also noted that the strike was based on "credible information" of a gathering of ISWAP militants in the village to carry out an attack.
Another security source said the village was under surveillance in the past 10 days after scores of men suspected to be foreign militants amassed in the village.
"It was a preemptive strike to destroy whatever plans the terrorists were making," the source said.
A local fisherman said the fighter jet struck the village "killing many of our people who are there for fishing".
"The initial death toll was around 20, but the figure has been increasing with the deaths of many of the injured," Sallau Arzika said.
Meanwhile, a local resident told Reuters on Tuesday that at least 50 people were killed instantly after two planes bombed a fish market in the village.
Husaini, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his first name, said his leg was injured in the attack.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said they saw the corpses of at least 60 people after the air force's strike.
"They are innocent people like us that depend on fishing to sustain their living. Their mistake is that they were fishing in an area restricted by security forces," the resident said.
The Nigerian air force did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment.
The latest development comes two weeks after the Nigerian military bombed another village in the country’s northeast, killing at least 9 people and seriously injuring several others.
It also comes two months after the US government transferred six A-29 Super Tucano fighter planes to Nigeria to “assist” it in its war against militants.
The sale of the aircraft was condemned by critics, citing the Nigerian military's record of killing civilians.
President Muhammadu Buhari has come under fire for the worsening security situation in several regions of Nigeria.
The Nigerian troops are fighting a 12-year militancy by the Takfiri Boko Haram terrorist group in the northeast, herder-farmer tensions and banditry in the northwest and separatist agitations in the southeast.