US urges Nigerian authorities to investigate killing of herders in early 2023

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The United States urged Nigerian authorities on Friday to investigate an air strike that Reuters reported killed dozens of cattle herders earlier this year and highlighted a pattern of deadly aerial assaults.

Dozens of ethnic Fulani herders died in a January 24 aerial bombing in the central state of Nasarawa, according to a Reuters investigation published this week. The deaths raise awkward questions for allies such as the US, which arm Nigeria’s military as part of ongoing efforts to quell insurgencies in West Africa.

“We urge Nigerian authorities to thoroughly investigate this and all other incidents of civilian harm in a timely and transparent manner,” a State Department spokesperson said on Friday in an emailed response to questions about the reporting.

The spokesperson said senior US officials and diplomats in Nigeria regularly engage with the Nigerian government on efforts to combat terrorism, discussing issues such as protecting civilians from harm. The spokesperson did not specify whether they had raised the January bombing with the Nigerians.

The spokesperson also said Washington is not aware of any information indicating weapons or aircraft supplied by the United States have been involved in any civilian harm incidents attributed to the Nigerian Air Force. The deadly airstrike came amid renewed worries among US lawmakers about weapons deals worth hundreds of millions to Nigeria.