Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A man lies on a hospital bed in the Maiduguri State Specialist Hospital on January 18, 2017.


As the death toll climbs to more than 230 in a Nigerian military attack on a refugee camp, new accounts from witnesses and satellite photos are revealing the full horror of the disaster.

The Nigerian air force has apologized for the attack, calling it an accident. But witnesses say a Nigerian warplane circled twice and dropped two bombs in the middle of the town of Rann, Nigeria, where as many as 40,000 refugees have sought shelter from Boko Haram, the radical Islamist militia.

Nigerian officials now say that 236 people were killed in the attack last week. Most were women and children. At least nine humanitarian workers were among the dead and more than a dozen others were injured.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Nigeria mistakenly bombs refugee camp, killing more than 50

"There are no words to describe the chaos," said Alfred Davies, a field co-ordinator with Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders), in an interview released by the agency. "I saw the bodies of children that had been cut in two."

Human-rights groups say the attack could be considered a war crime, even if it wasn't deliberate. Early estimates said 52 people were killed, but the toll has climbed rapidly as more reports filter out from the remote town near Nigeria's border with Cameroon. At least 120 were injured in the bombing attack, many critically.

So far, only a panel of Nigerian air-force officers is investigating the disaster. No larger independent inquiry has been appointed. Journalists are barred from the bombing site, and the air-force panel has been ordered to finish its report by the end of next week.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari issued a brief statement expressing "regret" for the disaster, and then went on vacation in a luxury hotel in London.

Satellite photographs show that at least 35 structures – including shelters for displaced people – were destroyed by "multiple air-dropped munitions" at two sites in the town of Rann, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, which has called for an independent investigation.

Hundreds of refugee tents are located among the residential buildings at the two bombing sites, and the tents are "easily visible from the air, making it difficult to understand how an accident of this nature could have occurred," Human Rights Watch said.

Story continues below advertisement

When the bombing began, 40 volunteers from the Nigerian Red Cross Society were just starting to distribute food to thousands of refugees. Nine of the volunteers were in critical condition with injuries from the explosions, the Red Cross said.

The town had been isolated by war and poor roads since last June, and some refugees had already died of malnutrition. The refugees were desperate for food, which finally arrived on the day of the air strike.

MSF said the victims "deserve a transparent account" of the disaster. "People had sought safety in what they thought was a protected site – instead they were bombed by those who were meant to safeguard them," said a statement by Bruno Jochum, MSF's general director.

MSF medical co-ordinator Mohammed Musoke, who helped treat the wounded, described a six-month-old infant who had a piece of shrapnel embedded in his neck. The baby, like dozens of other victims, was evacuated by helicopter to the nearest city, Maiduguri. "In the helicopter, the child was crying uncontrollably," he told MSF.

A day after the bombing, many of the injured had not yet been evacuated and were "still in a very bad shape," he said. There was no hospital in the town, and many of the injured died from lack of medical equipment.

"We saw dozens of patients with multiple traumatic injuries, including open fractures and wounds to the abdomen and chest," Dr. Musoke said.

Story continues below advertisement

"There was a 10-year-old boy with a large, deep flesh wound to his thigh. The flesh was hanging loose on one side and you could see through to the bone. This kind of wound is extremely painful, but all the time that I was applying bandages to the wound, he stayed expressionless and numb."

Baba, a 37-year-old refugee who was injured in the bombing, said he had often seen Nigerian warplanes flying past the town. "But on Tuesday, it was different," he said in an MSF interview. "The plane flew back and forth, and we knew something was wrong before the bombing happened."

He said he began running as soon as the first bomb hit. He was hit by shrapnel from the second explosion. "I started feeling pain and when I looked I saw that there was a hole in my leg and my foot, and that I was bleeding."

The disaster at Rann is just the latest in a series of bombings and other attacks by Nigerian military forces that have killed scores of civilians in recent years.

It also illustrates the growing threats to humanitarian agencies in war zones. Russian and Syrian forces have repeatedly bombed and shelled hospitals and clinics in Syria, including MSF clinics, killing dozens of people. In Afghanistan, U.S. warplanes bombed an MSF hospital in Kunduz, killing more than 40 patients and staff.

Last year alone, more than 90 humanitarian workers were killed in attacks of various kinds across the world, and 154 were injured, according to a database maintained by the International NGO Safety Organization.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies