Nigeria denies it flew any sorties in the area on day in question
Security source says it was an accident as target was Boko Haram militants
Resident who helped bury dead says 37 people were killed
A military plane on Tuesday dropped a bomb on mourners in a Niger village on the border with Nigeria, killing 37 people and wounding 20 others, residents and a regional security source in Niger told CNN.
“A military jet on an operational mission against Boko Haram targets accidentally attacked a funeral gathering in Abadam Faransa, killing several people,” the security source said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
Resident Abatcha Kaloma, who assisted with the burials of the dead, said 37 people were killed and 20 were wounded, figures backed up by a community leader who didn’t want to be named.
It was unclear which nation’s military carried out the bombing, but residents blamed Nigeria, a charge it denied. Air Commodore Dele Alonge, a spokesman for the Nigerian Air Force, said the military didn’t conduct air raids in that area Tuesday.
The security source wouldn’t say where the plane was from.
Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have in recent weeks stepped up a coordinated offensive against Boko Haram, which is based in Nigeria. Chad and Nigeria have used fighter jets as part of a regional alliance to defeat the Islamist group that has recently escalated its deadly attacks on Nigeria and its neighbors.
The incident took place around 6:30 p.m. outside the home of a local official who died hours earlier.
Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is sin,” has been waging a yearslong campaign of terror aimed at instituting its extreme version of Sharia law. Its tactics have intensified in recent years, from battling government soldiers to acts disproportionately affecting civilians – such as raids on villages, mass kidnappings, assassinations, market bombings and attacks on churches and unaffiliated mosques.
Much of this violence has taken place in Nigeria. But neighboring countries, such as Cameroon and Chad, have also been hit increasingly hard.
Niger became more of a target after its decision to join the regional alliance fighting the Islamist group.
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this story.