According to the UN, tens of thousands of people have fled a series of attacks this week by armed groups on the city of Damasak in Borno state.
As many as 65,000 people have fled the city of Damasak in northeastern Nigeria following a series of attacks by an armed group, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said. .
Fighters from the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stormed the city of Borno State three times a week to strike a military garrison, torching houses and a UN office, and killing at least 12 people, UNHCR said on Friday. .
In the latest violence on Wednesday, fighters attacked the garrison before being forced to return to the town itself, military sources and residents said.
“Following the latest attack on Wednesday, April 14, the third in seven days, up to 80 percent of the city’s population – which includes the local community and internally displaced people – were forced to leave. flee, ”UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said.
Some fled to the regional capital, Maiduguri, and other nearby towns, while others crossed the border into Niger’s Diffa region, itself vulnerable to violence from armed groups.
“Due to insecurity, however, humanitarian access is increasingly difficult in many areas of Borno State in Nigeria, including for UNHCR staff, who have been forced to temporarily relocate out of Nigeria. Damasak over the past seven days, ”Baloch said.
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at the same briefing that aid operations had been temporarily suspended in the region since Sunday due to insecurity.
“The situation on the ground is extremely critical and if this continues it will be impossible for us, perhaps for longer periods, to provide assistance to those in desperate need,” he said.
Laerke added that aid workers appeared to be targets, amid reports of door-to-door searches for aid workers and burning of their offices.
The incidents mark the latest violence in the Lake Chad Basin region which in recent years has uprooted some 3.3 million people, the refugee agency said.
Damasak is the host of one of the so-called “super camps” of the army – fortified garrisons the army was set up to try to better defend itself against attacks.
Critics and residents alike say the strategy of closing smaller bases and retreating to larger camps has left armed groups more free to move around rural areas without challenge.
Because of worsening security in the region, aid workers are struggling to deliver aid, with the number of people in urgent need of aid expected to rise to 8.7 million this year.
ISWAP, which split from the armed group Boko Haram in 2016, has become a dominant threat in Nigeria, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping civilians.