By Umar Isa
Zamfara State Government has denied official knowledge of innocent citizens allegedly being killed during air strikes on suspected bandits camps by the air component of Operation Sharan Daji.
The denial was made by the Secretary to the Government, Prof. Abdullahi Shinkafi when he received a high powered investigation team from the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) headquarters in Gusau on Friday.
“The report making rounds in some media outlets that civilians were killed during air strikes by personnel of the NAF in some parts of the state is not the official position of the state government.
“l did not receive any official report to this effect, but only got to know about it in the media.
“Instances of collateral damage are not supposed to go public but should be discussed in order to avoid future occurrence,” he said.
The SSG said the information was “an observation from the Council of Chiefs which needs to be substantiated.
“It is an observation by a group of stakeholders that needs to be ascertained,” the SSG maintained.
He said, “this is not the time to share blames but we must all come together to cooperate with the security agencies to see an end to the problem of armed banditry and other security challenges facing the state.”
Prof. Shinkafi who said that the bandits now occupied very large portion of the state in the deep forest, also explained that they smartly used their informers to evade arrival of security men at their identified locations.
He advised communities in the state to stop concealing the bandits but rather give credible information to the security so that they would be stopped from executing mayhem on them.
He assured that the state government would continue to facilitate all the needs of the security agencies so that they could succeed.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, AVM Idi Lubo, said members were in the state to investigate the report that innocent civilians were killed by NAF personnel who were alleged to have been striking the wrong targets in the fight against bandits.
“l want to make it clear that in the Air Force, especially during armed conflicts, we work under the guidance of certain rules of engagement and precision before moving against suspected targets.
“We are here to ascertain the veracity of the allegations because when people we are trying to protect rise against us, it is not a good development, especially when we know that these pilots and other personnel put their own lives in the line.
“The NAF is deploying all latest technology in order to be certain of existing suspicious threats before we strike.
“We will visit the said attacked communities and sympathize with the people if the allegations are true because as humans we cannot be completely right at all times.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the state’s Council of Chiefs, a fortnight ago, alleged that the air component of the on-going Operation Sharan Daji in the state shelled wrong targets and killed innocent people. (NAN)