Tens of thousands flee attacks on northeast Nigerian town

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As many as 65,000 people have fled their homes in the northeast Nigerian town of Damasak following a recent series of attacks, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

Driving the news: Armed groups have attacked the Borno state town at least three times over the last week, according to UNHCR. At least eight people have been killed and several others injured. A UNHCR facility was looted and burned, and several NGO offices and vehicles were destroyed.

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What they’re saying: “Following the latest attack on Wednesday 14 April, the third in just seven days, up to 80% of the town’s population — which includes the local community and internally displaced people — were forced to flee,” UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said.

  • Non-State armed actors were also “conducting house-to-house searches, reportedly looking for civilians identified as aid workers,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  • 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,” Laerke said.

The big picture: “Years of insecurity and insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast have created a massive humanitarian emergency in the Lake Chad basin,” the UN noted.

  • Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province, have carried out numerous attacks in the region over the last several years, forcing millions to flee, according to the UN.

  • OCHA warned in February that some 8.7 million people in northeast Nigeria will need urgent humanitarian assistance this year.

  • OCHA noted that the hardships Nigerians in the region face have been “compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused greater vulnerability, deepens humanitarian needs and complicates the response.”

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