NAF denies killing innocent herdsmen in Nasarawa air strike

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has said that allegations by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigerian (MACBAN), that scores of its innocent members on their way from Makurdi, were killed in an airstrike in Nasarawa State was unfounded .

NAF Headquarters spokesman,Air Commodore Ayodele Famuyiwa denied the allegations on Thursday during Defence Headquarters media briefing in Abuja .

He recalled that there had been lingering reports of concerns from human rights bodies about the allegation by Miyetti Allah that dozens of herders were killed in a community in Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State in January, on their way from Makurdi where they had gone to claim their cows that had been seized by the Benue State Livestock Guard for violating the state’s anti-open grazing law.

Air Commodore Famuyiwa said that no innocent person was killed in the said operation.

“Let the people who said innocent people were killed provide the evidence and let the press do that analysis and let the truth come out,” he stated.

The Airforce spokesman, who decried the sustained attempts by by some human rights bodies, “to put the military in disrepute,” also blamed the Nigerian press for leveraging on the position of the human rights bodies without necessarily hearing from the Airforce, “and very sadly blowing up the position of the human rights watch without you doing your own discrete investigation and being sure that whatever position that you are taking is correct.”

He explained what actually happened, thus: “On the 24th of January, and even before then, there had been intelligence (reports) from several reliable sources of the activities of terrorists in that particular area.

You are all aware of the nefarious activities of criminal elements in that particular area; you are also aware that there’s an on-going operation, that is the OPERATION WHIRLSTROKE.

“The Intel here from several/different sources and even to the Commander of that Operation and to the air component, was that there was a plan by terrorists within that area to carry out a massive attack and then there was a secondary school in question that the terrorists were bound to kidnap students. To that extent, the Air Force carried out surveillance.

“There was surveillance and the surveillance confirmed terrorists, and I mean terrorists, and how do you know that they are terrorist? They have tactics which they adopt: you see them coming on bikes in triples, converging at a location and after that, they disappear, hiding under the forage and that surveillance continued for almost throughout the day until later in the evening when a truck appeared in that scene.

“The truck was suspected to have brought logistics to them. That was why approval was given by the appropriate authority that, that truck should be take out and the truck was taken out.

“Now, if anyone is coming around to say innocent people were killed, has the press asked them, where is the photograph of that truck that brought the cattle that they are talking about? The claim is that they came there to come and collect their cattle. .

” Now, if you say people died, where is the truck? where are the cattle?. Where is the photograph of the dead bodies and if you do your investigation very well, you will discover that if you say people died from a strike, there’s going to be a way the bodies will look. Did the press do that?

“The position of the Air Force is that, terrorist were struck that day and whether it is Miyetti Allah or whatsoever group that thinks there were innocent people, let them provide evidence.

If you think the military is going to give you the evidence of that operation for now, you won’t get it because there are some information that cannot be de-classified now. But let’s put the burden on the people: if they came there to collect their cows, where are the cows?. Where is the picture of the truck that was struck? How did those people die? I think the press needs to do better than this.

“And if you look at it, after that particular incident, have you heard of any terrorist activity in that area? Have you heard? So, I think we need to do much better. No innocent person was killed. Let the people who said innocent people were killed provide the evidence and let the press do that analysis and let the truth come out.”