A Freedom of Information Act report obtained by the Intercept paints a troubling picture of US Africa Command's conduct in the region.

The United States was involved in the bombing of an internally displaced persons’ camp in Nigeria that killed more than 160 civilians, mostly children, according to the US based website the Intercept. 

The attack, referred to as an instance of ‘US-Nigeria operations’ in a formerly secret US military document, also killed nine aid workers and seriously wounded more than 120 people. 

The January 2017 attack on the camp located in Rann, Nigeria near the Cameroonian and Chadian borders was conducted as a part of a long-running counterinsurgency campaign against the armed group Boko Haram. The strike also destroyed at least 35 structures, including shelters for war victims. 

Before a jet arrived and bombed the area where people draw water from a borehole, a surveillance plane circled above the Rann IDP camp, which housed 43,000 people and was controlled by the Nigerian military.

The jet dropped another bomb on the tents of displaced civilians sheltering there.

After the attack, the Nigerian forces sent out a statement expressing regret for carrying out the strike. 

It said that “the location was not reflected in the operational map as a humanitarian base,” according to Major Gen. John Enenche, Nigeria’s director of defense information. 

“Hence, it appeared as a place that could equally be used for enemy activities.”

Evidence obtained by the Intercept suggests that the US launched a near-unprecedented internal investigation of the attack, because it secretly provided intelligence or other support to the Nigerian armed forces.

The inquiry was ordered by the top American general overseeing troops in Africa. 

It was specifically designed to avoid questions of wrongdoing or recommendations for disciplinary action, according to the document cited in the Intercept report.

Just days after the attack, US Africa Command secretly commissioned Brig. Gen. Frank J. Stokes who undertook an “investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of a kinetic air strike (‘strike’) conducted by Nigerian military forces in the vicinity of Rann, Nigeria.” 

Those findings were never made public. 

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Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the redacted document could not reveal the full extent of US involvement in the 2017 airstrike, but Stokes’s official instructions suggest that the US provided intelligence or other support to the Nigerian military. 

“You will gather and preserve any background information that is relevant to a complete understanding of the US-Nigerian operations such as this strike,” reads the document. 

Stokes’s mandate included an inquiry into how the US shares information with Nigeria’s military and “after action reporting procedures when shared information is used in a strike (e.g., battle damage assessment reports)".

Stokes was instructed not to focus “on any person or organization which took part in this strike” nor to “make recommendations as to any disciplinary actions to be taken”.

There were also limitations in terms of accountability. 

“You do not have any authority to compel potentially incriminating evidence from any Service member, civilian employee of the US, contractor personnel supporting US operations, or foreign military personnel,” reads his mandate.

AFRICOM “was not involved” in the bombing of the camp, spokesman Kelly Cahalan said but secret programs can be carried out by the CIA or Special Operations forces under their own chains of command. 

While AFRICOM takes responsibility for drone strikes, they are generally carried out by a Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, task force.

The West African country’s security forces have failed to defeat Boko Haram, which they’ve been fighting since 2009, despite a 20-year security cooperation with the US, during which America armed and trained Nigerian troops.

Source: TRT World