At least 85 civilians were killed in Kaduna state, north-west Nigeria, in an air strike during a Muslim religious celebration on Sunday, the local emergency management authority said.
The civilians were killed in a “bombing mishap”, President Bola Tinubu said without giving a death toll.
State Governor Uba Sani said they were “mistakenly killed” by a military drone “targeting terrorists and bandits”.
More than 60 people were admitted to hospital for treatment, officials said.
The defence ministry termed the operation a “needless tragedy” adding that a routine mission against militants “inadvertently affected members of the community”.
Nigeria’s military has for years been battling armed criminals and militants who has been operating in parts of northern Nigeria, raiding villages and kidnapping residents for ransom.
The airstrike happened when villagers from Tundun Biri gathered for a religious festival on Sunday evening.
The head of the army, Lt Gen Taoreed Lagbaja has apologised to the residents and paid a condolence visit to the village.
He expressed regret about “the unfortunate mishap, describing it as a very disheartening occurrence”, the army said.
Gen Lagbaja said that troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and “wrongly analysed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities” to be similar to that of the bandits, before the drone strike.
President Tinubu has asked for a “thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and calls for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap” a statement from his office said.
The Nigerian military has in the past been accused of causing civilian casualties while battling militia gangs, known locally as bandits, in the north-west of the country. The government has labelled the gangs “terrorists”.
More than 300 people have been killed since 2017 in accidental strikes by the Nigerian military, a report by SB Morgen, a research firm, said.
In 2021, at least 20 fishermen were killed accidentally in a Nigerian fighter jet strike on a jihadist camp in north-east Nigeria.
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