Some residents of Garkida community in Gombi Local Government Area of Adamawa have accused the Nigerian Air Force of doing nothing while they were attacked by Boko Haram insurgents last week.
The villagers told TheCable that the NAF authorities were informed on time about the attack, but they are still shocked that the insurgents were allowed to have their way while air force fighter jets hovered above them.
One of the residents said;
“We spotted the insurgents hours before they came into Korongilum, and immediately, we informed the nearest army battalion which is in Chibok.
“It appeared that the army would need help and they called the air force for air support. The insurgents were already in town, and when we saw air force jets we were happy. The insurgents carried on with the attacks and didn’t leave until after three hours. While they were at it, air force jets just kept hovering and not a shot was fired.
“The insurgents, right there under the hovering guns of the air force drove out unchallenged in a convoy of about 17 trucks.”
Another resident said;
“While we ran to hide inside the rocks, we saw air force jets coming and we started monitoring them.
“Air support is meant to come from Yola, and indeed they came on time, but we did not hear them fire or bomb the insurgents. The insurgents came in large numbers and they were operating in the open when NAF could clearly see them and engage.”
A third resident of the community said;
“At a point, we started asking ourselves if the jets were those of the air force or the insurgents, because how could the insurgents operate that freely? Are we saying the air force couldn’t see them moving in their large numbers? Please, we need help. We need to understand what’s happening.”
A senior army official who also confirmed the incident to TheCable, said they shared valid information with the Nigerian Air Force authorities but they claimed no target was on sight.
The military source further disclosed that the soldiers on ground had only one gun truck and were outnumbered by the insurgents who had many gun trucks.
“The approach to this fight is intelligence driven, and the air force actually stands the bigger chance to crush the enemies.
“During the attack in Garkida, the air force came. The army troops on the ground had shared intelligence on the exact location of the enemies, but we were shocked when the air force said they did not see anything.
“Even if they had shed just once, trust me, the enemies would have fled. I don’t really understand if the army is fighting a different war from what the air force is.”
However defending itself, the Nigerian Air Force said they couldn't open fire on the insurgents in order not to kill innocent civilians.
Spokesperson of the Force, Ibikunle Daramola insisted that they can't be accused of negligence when it responded to the calls for air support by dispatching its aircraft to the location.
“Close air support, by definition, requires detailed coordination between the aircraft and the forces or individuals being supported.
“Hence, there must be communication between the aircraft, which is thousands of feet in the air, and the ground elements so as to avoid collateral damage or attacking one’s own troops (fratricide). As you may have come to know, the situation on the ground in Garkida on 21 February 2020 was extremely chaotic with significant movement in the general area that were indistinguishable from the air.
“The situation was worsened by the fact that the attack mostly took place at night. In such situations, the rules of engagement, as internationally known, is not to attack unless it is clear that no civilians are in harm’s way. The essence is to avoid the inadvertent killing of the people that the aircraft were dispatched to protect. It must be noted that the NAF ISR and attack aircraft remained airborne to provide support while seeking to de-conflict targets before engaging them; this was done outside the vicinity of the town in order to avoid killing any innocent civilians.
“Furthermore, as a follow-up, the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, on 22/23 February 2020, carried out air strikes against terrorists’ hideouts at Parisu in the Sambisa general area of Borno State, where the Boko Haram elements that attacked Garkida were said to have originated. The battle damage assessment video of the attacks will be released, once declassified.”