Abuja — A Nigerian military airstrike targeting bandits has killed seven children and injured five others in the southern part of neighboring Niger.
A local governor of the Maradi region near Nigeria, Chaibou Aboubacar, confirmed the incident to the French news agency on Sunday. Aboubacar said the strike occurred on Friday in the village of Nachade and that four of the children died instantly while three others died on their way to the hospital.
He said, "There was a mistake with the Nigeria strikes on the border that resulted in victims in our territory."
Aboubacar visited the children's graves on Saturday and said the Nigerian military planes were combing the area for bandits, local criminal gangs operating in northwest Nigeria, who kill people or kidnap them for ransom.
Nigeria's director of defense information, Jimmy Akpor, says an investigation is under way.
He said, "As a matter of policy, the Nigerian Air Force does not make any incursions into areas outside Nigeria's territorial boundaries."
Criminal gang activity has unleashed terror in the region since late 2020. Nigerian authorities have been cracking down.
Bandits fleeing military raids in Nigeria often migrate north toward Niger. The Maradi region in Niger is one of the most affected by the violence created by bandits in neighboring Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara in Nigeria.
The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has tried to create a joint task force to prevent fleeing criminals from taking refuge elsewhere in the region. In 2018, Niger ramped up security around its border with Nigeria to prevent gangs from gaining entry.