Over 100 Civilians Killed in Accidental Nigerian Airstrike
Media and intelligence reports indicate that a Nigerian Air Force aircraft, likely either a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet or an Aero L-39 Albatross light trainer/attack jet has been involved in a fratricide incident with “over 100 dead” according to first information.
The incident occurred Tuesday Jan. 17, when an airstrike by an undisclosed number and type of Nigerian military aircraft, likely only one aircraft, mistakenly targeted a “refugee camp” along the Nigerian-Cameroon border.
Reports indicate that aid workers have also been wounded in the attack. The border area is on the eastern edge of Nigeria in central Africa. According to a report by the BBC, “The Red Cross says six of its workers are confirmed dead.” The BBC report also cited casualty numbers lower than other news outlets, with a reported “50 killed and over 100 wounded”. The international aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or “Doctors Without Borders” was named as the source for the casualty reports but did not specifically name MSF volunteers as victims in the incident. Médecins Sans Frontières staff and physicians have been involved in a number of fratricide or “friendly fire” incidents in the region during the last decade.
While no official reports have been released other than statements of regret from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari over the incident, Nigerian Army spokesman Major-General Lucky Irabor told media the jet’s pilot mistakenly believed he was attacking insurgents.
Nigeria’s tactical aircraft are currently inventoried as the Alpha Jet and the Aero L-39, two light jet trainer/attack aircraft that usually lack modern, sophisticated precision targeting and navigation equipment. While Nigeria also fields a version of the MiG-21 built in China called the Chengdu F-7 Airguard, that aircraft has limited air-to-ground precision targeting capability with unguided rockets and bombs.
The original target for the airstrike was reported as Boko Haram terrorists, said Major-General Lucky Irabor, theater commander for counterinsurgency operations in northeast Nigeria. Major-General Irabor added that, “It was too early to say if a tactical error was made” according to a statement he made to the The Telegraph.
Major General Lucky Irabor (credit: The Telegraph)
Airstrikes in the region are a near-daily occurrence. With a large displaced refugee population in the area incidents of fratricide have been recorded before. This incident is remarkable not only for the tragic number of victims but also as the first time Nigeria has accepted some level of responsibility for the incident. It further emphasizes the risks of operating attack aircraft lacking precision targeting capabilities in close proximity to civilian populations.
The author of the images, Wojciech Mazurkiewicz, working as a member of the Radom Airshow’s press team, told us that shooting the aircraft at night was extremely satisfying and quite exceptional: this is the first time in history such a photo shoot has been allowed.
After long negotiations with Lt. Col. Artur Goławski, the spokesperson for the event, Mazurkiewicz, along with the photographers of the press team, got the clearance to take the unique night photos. As it happens sometimes – not everything went smooth. In fact, due to a lack of communication within the chain of command, the guards securing the aircraft did not receive any information related to the photographers presence.
However, after 15 minutes, the issue was solved and the photographers were allowed to take the shots of the aircraft taking part in the Radom Air Show dynamic displays. Interestingly, only 3 photographers had a chance to take the night shots of the “sleeping” aircraft meaning that the images in this post are quite unique.
General public rarely gets up close and personal with the aircraft taking part in the flying display as these airframes are usually parked away from the audience area for safety reasons.
A video, filmed in central Syria today allegedly shows the first ISIS jet in flight.
In the last few days, several media outlets reported the news that the Islamic State has started combat operations using “Mig” fighter jets from an airbase in Syria.
Indeed, in 2014, ISIS has captured two airbases in central Syria, Tabqa and Kshesh, where Islamic State fighters have seized some Syrian Arab Air Force airplanes. Among these aircraft, several Mig-21s and L-39s, some of those, if not airworthy, were probably at least in pretty good shape.
Photos of IS fighters posing next to intact L-39s at Kshesh, about 70 kilometers to the east of Aleppo, have been published on several websites and social media: some of them show the combat trainers in near operational conditions.
Obviously, the mere fact that some aircraft, with some missing parts were captured by ISIS, does not mean they now have an Air Force. Still, their capability to bring a few of those “Migs” to flight conditions should not be underestimated: with the help of the Iraqi personnel formerly serving with the Iraqi Air Force the three planes were reportedly brought back to operational status at Kshesh. Most probably piloted by Iraqi, IS supporters or mercenaries.
On Oct. 18, a video reportedly filmed near Kshesh emerged. It shows a jet landing at the airbase under IS control in central Syria.
Although it’s not easy to guess the type of aircraft, it may be an L-39.
As said, the fact that some aircraft have been brought to operational status is far from being surprising. What’s weird is that U.S. aircraft involved in Operation Inherent Resolve (as the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS was dubbed) have not yet targeted Kshesh airbase to wipe out the first three aircraft of the quite basic IS Air Force…
It’s hard to believe any Libyan pilot may have attained the required training and experience to carry out the attack using a modern Egyptian plane. Libyan pilots are elderly officers who have flown little flight hours in the last decade or so and may have some experience with the aircraft they have flown for the last 30 years only.
Unless they used one of the Mig-21s still flown by the EAF, the chances that a Libyan pilot conducted an air strike on an Egyptian combat jet are really scarce. Furthermore, Egypt operates the fourth largest fleet of F-16s, American aircraft that can carry PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and F-4E Phantoms that would be better candidates for an air strike. Anyway, any war mission is likely to be conducted with a combat plane more modern than a Mig-21, flown by experienced aircrews.
Indeed, a photo taken by Libyan photographer Maher Alawami shows a Mig-21 during an air strike over Benghazi on Oct. 15. Therefore, provided it was really taken a couple of days ago, the image seems to suggest (at least some) attack missions in East Libya are actually conducted by Libyan pilots on Libyan aircraft.
On top of this article you can find a slightly edited version of the image taken by Alwami with the roundel of the FLAF highlighted and magnified (for those who don’t know it very well). The original photo can be found here.
A Syrian Arab Air Force Mig-21 is almost hit by ground fire as it releases its bomb.
The following video shows a shell (57mm one according to the uploader) streak past a Syrian Mig-21 Fishbed attacking a target near Idlib. The SyAAF jet releases its bomb just in time to escape the direct hit.
H/T to Matt Fanning for sending us the link to the video