The number of people killed in the horrific military attack on civilians in Rann, northeastern Nigeria, three days ago, now stands at about 90 according to what teams from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) witnessed in the aftermath of the attack, and it may be significantly higher according to residents and community leaders.
On Jan. 17, a Nigerian warplane circled twice and dropped two bombs in the middle of the town of Rann, which hosts thousands of internally displaced people. At the time of the attack, an aid distribution was taking place. The majority of the victims were women and children.
Beyond what the MSF teams in Rann witnessed themselves, residents and community leaders consistently report that as many as 170 people were killed.
"This figure needs to be confirmed," said Bruno Jochum, MSF general director. "The victims of this horrifying event deserve a transparent account of what happened and the circumstances in which this attack took place. Many of the survivors will need long-term care and support for the future. People had sought safety in what they thought was a protected site—instead they were bombed by those who were meant to safeguard them."
The tragedy in Rann too clearly illustrates the dire situation in Borno state, where extremely vulnerable people remain trapped in a cycle of daily violence between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram. This intense violence has led to the displacement of nearly three million people over the past few years, who are still in urgent need of protection and assistance.
"The population continues to pay the price of a merciless conflict, where the war between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military too often disregards the safety of civilians," said Jochum. "The people of Borno should be entitled to guarantees of protection and assistance. All parties to the conflict must ensure the safety of civilians, and we urge the Government of Nigeria to ensure the protection of its people."