The Nigerian military has debunked claims that a recent air strike targeted fishermen around the Lake Chad area in North -East Nigeria.
Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko, Acting Director Defence Media Operations who reacted to media reports in a statement Thursday said the air strike targeted clearly identified ISWAP terrorists.
Onyeuko said, “The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to misguided media reports trending in the social media alleging that OPHK troops killed 20 Fishermen in an Air Strike in Kwatan Daban Masara on Sunday 26 Sep 21, around the Lake Tchad area of North East Nigeria.
“Contrary to the report, the interdiction targeted and neutralised clearly identified ISWAP terrorists and not fishermen. It is thus pertinent to make clarifications on the air interdiction recently conducted in the general area by OPHK.
He said further that while, “Responding to credible Intelligence report on the movement and operation of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists massed up within the forested area, thorough analysis of the intelligence report was conducted between 19 August and 23 September 2021.
“Special Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaisance (ISR) mission was also carried out, which confirmed the area as the terrorists’ staging area. Further confirmatory reconnaissance revealed that the observed movements and activities were of ISWAP, dressed in the usual ISWAP-styled uniform. The terrorists used the thick folliage for cover and concealment to carry out their nefarious activities. They disguised as fishermen, with canoes loaded with unidentified items, berthed along the river bank.
“They were however observed not engaging in any fishing activity, but loading their canoes with unidentified items to be ferried to other locations.”
According to Onyeuko, “It is also very essential to point out that the ban on fishing activities within that general axis is still in force. It is equally of importance, to note that there was no presence of women and children in the area. Troops also ensured that civilian settlements were not in any way along the line of fire and strikes in order to prevent collateral damage that may arise in the conduct of the air strikes.
“It was after all these considerations that an air interdiction was carried out on the terrorists’ camp on Sunday, 26 Sep, 2021.
“The Defence Headquarters therefore wishes to unambiguously state that necessary steps were taken to ascertain the presence of the terrorists before the interdiction.
“OPHK will continue to safeguard lives and property of innocent civilians. We urge members of the public not to be swayed by the trending misinformation.
“It is crucial to reiterate that the mandate of OPHK remains to conduct Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency operations against all adversaries fighting the nation in North East Nigeria.
“We will continue to remain focused and dedicated to that mandate in defence of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country, Nigeria. We call on the good people of Borno state, and the north east in general to continue to avail troops with credible information for operational enhancement.”