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Nigeria: UN calls for "impartial" investigation after deadly drone attack on civilians

Nigeria: UN calls for "impartial" investigation after deadly drone attack on civilians
The symbol of the United Nations is displayed outside the Secretariat Building, Feb. 28, 2022, at United Nations Headquarters.   -  
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The United Nations on Wednesday called for an "impartial investigation" after a Nigerian army drone strike accidentally killed at least 85 villagers celebrating a Muslim holiday on Sunday.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that "the authorities have described the deaths of civilians as accidental", but at the same time called for "all possible measures to be taken in the future to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure".

The Nigerian authorities "must review the rules of engagement and operational procedures to ensure that such incidents do not recur", added UN agency spokesman Seif Magango in a statement.

The High Commission "urged" Abuja to "conduct a thorough and impartial investigation" and "hold those responsible to account", while providing reparations to the victims and their families.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ordered an investigation on Tuesday after the army admitted that one of its drones targeting armed groups had accidentally hit the village of Tudun Biri, in the northwestern state of Kaduna, during the Muslim festival of Mawlid, which commemorates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

Most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly.

"We are particularly alarmed by reports that the strike was based on the living habits of people present at the scene, which have been misanalyzed and misinterpreted," according to the spokesman for the Geneva-based UN agency.

"We seriously question whether strikes based on +lifestyle+ are sufficiently compliant with international law," he continued.

Nigerian armed forces often resort to air strikes in their fight against bandit militias in the northwest and northeast of the country, where jihadists have been battling for over a decade. This conflict has left over 40,000 people dead and two million displaced since 2009.

Following this particularly deadly attack, the Nigerian army stated that its drone was a routine mission that had "inadvertently hit members of the community". It went on to say that the villagers had been mistaken for an armed group present in the area.

"Terrorists deliberately establish themselves in areas where civilians live, so that they suffer the consequences of their atrocities," the army had said in a statement. "The army considers every civilian death during operations as a tragedy".

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