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Northeast Nigeria Violence Forces 65,000 To Flee, Humanitarians Targeted By Armed Groups

A spate of clashes involving Government security
forces and insurgent groups in northeast Nigeria has caused
mass displacement and threatened humanitarian assistance, as
armed groups go “house-to-house” hunting for aid
workers, the UN said on Friday.

“Up to
65,000 Nigerians are on the move following a series of
attacks by armed groups on Damasak town, in northeast
Nigeria’s restive Borno State”, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva.
“Initial reports indicate that eight people were killed,
and a dozen injured.”

Echoing those concerns, the
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported several
incidents in the town since Sunday 11

“Humanitarian assets have been targeted,
including the destruction of at least five NGO offices and
several NGO vehicles, a mobile storage unit, water tanks, a
health outpost and a nutrition stabilization centre,” said
OCHA spokesperson Jens

Civilian targets

Non-State armed
actors were also “conducting house-to-house searches,
reportedly looking for civilians identified as aid
workers”, he said.

This was despite the fact that
aid operations and humanitarian facilities were a
“lifeline for people in northeast Nigeria who depend on
assistance to survive”.

According to OCHA, the
attacks will affect support to nearly 9,000 internally
displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community,
who are receiving humanitarian assistance and

Repeated attacks

In the latest
reported attack on Wednesday – the third in seven days –
UNHCR’s Mr Baloch
explained that “up to 80 per cent of the town’s
population – which includes the local community and
internally displaced people as well – had been forced to

Assailants looted and burned down private homes,
warehouses of humanitarian agencies, a police station, a
clinic and UNHCR facility.

Describing the situation as
“extremely critical”, OCHA’s Mr. Laerke insisted that
if the attacks continue, “it will be impossible, maybe for
longer periods of time, for us to deliver aid to people who
desperately need it” – his comments coming as UNHCR
noted that its staff had relocated out of Damasak,
temporarily, this week.

Civilians fleeing the violence
include Nigerians and Niger nationals, Mr. Baloch said,
explaining they had made for Borno state’s capital city,
Maiduguri and Geidam town in neighbouring Yobe State. Others
crossed into Niger’s Diffa region.

Years in the

Years of insecurity and insurgency in
Nigeria’s northeast have created a massive humanitarian
emergency in the Lake Chad basin.

To date, it has
uprooted some 3.3 million people. “More than 300,000 are
Nigerian refugees, more than 50 per cent of them are hosted
in Niger and Diffa region – where these refugees, where
thousands of refugees, are now arriving from Nigeria,
already hosts a quarter (of a) million refugees from
Nigeria,” Mr. Baloch

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