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NAF never bombed any community in Zamfara State; Used Lower Caliber Munitions to strike at bandits hideouts; sets up panel of inquiry – DOPRI.

Against the backdrop of insistence by Zamfara State Council of Elders that Nigerian Air Force aircraft attacked and killed innocent civilians and not armed bandits in its raid in the state, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar has constituted a high powered panel of inquiry to investigate the veracity or otherwise, of the claim.

Director of Air Force Public Relations (DOPRI), Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola who made this known on Thursday in Abuja, said the Panel, which will be headed by an Air Vice Marshal (2-Star General), will work with the Zamfara State Government as well as the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs and other stakeholders.

He made the disclosure even as he dismissed the claim by the elders that NAF aircraft bombed some of the communities during its raid, clarifying that no NAF aircraft threw bombs in Zamfara state but rather used lower caliber munitions due to the threat level

Daramola said, “The Panel will start its investigation from Katsina, the Headquarters of Operation Diran Mikiya, before proceeding to Gusau and other relevant locations in Zamfara State to properly scrutinize all evidence presented by the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs.

“At the end of the investigation, members of the public would be duly informed” he said.

Furthermore he said, “As a responsible Service, the NAF also wishes to clarify that in all its air strikes in the North West, bombs were never used.

“This has been deliberately done in view of the nature of threat as well as the operational environment, despite the fact that the armed bandits have Anti-Aircraft Gun in their possession.

“The allegation that bombs were used is therefore not only false but out rightly misleading.

He continued, “The NAF would not relent in its unwavering commitment to sustain its operations to flush out armed bandits from Zamfara and its environs in collaboration with other security agencies.

“The NAF wishes to restate that it will always be responsible and will not take any action that will jeopardize the safety and security of the people of Zamfara State.

“As a professional organization and in line with our constitutional mandate, we shall not be distracted but ensure that the innocent people of Zamfara and indeed all Nigerians are safe and secure to be able to pursue their legitimate aspirations.

“For the record, the NAF wishes to state that Operation Diran Mikiya was launched on 30 July 2018 to flush out armed bandits terrorizing Zamfara State and its environs.

“Since the commencement of the Operation, the NAF has conducted a total of 827 missions, in 1,027 sorties, flying about 1,500 hours and consuming about 630,000 litres of aviation fuel in order to ensure the security of lives and property of the people of Zamfara State and other affected States in the North West.

“It is also imperative to state that majority of the missions undertaken by the NAF were Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions aimed at gathering intelligence and identifying criminal hideouts in the North West, while others were air interdiction against missions identified, legitimate armed bandits locations.

“Apart from conducting air operations, the NAF Special Forces of the 207 Quick Response Group Gusau also conducts ground operations to secure Zamfara State and its environs, working in close coordination with the surface forces and other security agencies, deployed in the area.

“All of these are done to ensure security of lives and property of the people of Zamfara State and environs.

“It is pertinent to re-state that, before any attack mission is conducted or any target is engaged, the NAF ensures that it carries out detailed ISR missions, as a follow-up to reliable credible human intelligence to ensure proper targeting in order to, as much as possible, avoid collateral damage.

“Furthermore, as standard practice, NAF attack aircraft on air interdiction missions are accompanied by ISR platforms that guide them to designated targets.

“Moreover, NAF pilots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engagement for any operation, do not attack any location if it is observed that non-combatants are present”.

Excerpts of the statement by the Air Commodore Daramola titled ‘Re: Zamfara Emirs name civilians killed in NAF raids’ reads, “The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been drawn to a news story in the media on 18 April 2019 relaying a statement attributed to the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru, who, speaking on behalf of Zamfara State Council of Chiefs, released “names” of civilians allegedly killed by the NAF during air raids on armed bandits hideouts said to have been conducted on 9 April 2019.

“The statement was apparently in response to the press release issued by the NAF on 12 April 2019 challenging the veracity of Zamfara State Council of Chiefs’ earlier claim that NAF air strikes killed only innocent civilians in the areas attacked and not bandits; requesting anyone with substantiated evidence to produce such.

“For the record, the NAF wishes to state that Operation Diran Mikiya was launched on 30 July 2018 to flush out armed bandits terrorizing Zamfara State and its environs.

“The NAF hereby advocates public support and not condemnation as its personnel continue to make daily sacrifices towards eliminating all forms of threats to the security and indeed the development of our dear country.”

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