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Tens of thousands flee attacks on northeast Nigerian town: UN


As many as 65,000 people have fled the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak following a series of attacks by an armed group, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stormed the town in Borno state three times in a week to strike a military garrison, burning homes and a UN office, and killing at least 12 people, the UNHCR said on Friday.
In the latest violence on Wednesday, the terrorists attacked the garrison before being forced back into the town itself, military sources and residents said.
“Following the latest attack on Wednesday 14 April, the third in seven days, up to 80 percent of the town’s population – which includes the local community and internally displaced people – were forced to flee,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.
Some have fled towards the regional capital, Maiduguri, and other nearby towns while others have crossed the border into Niger’s Diffa region, itself vulnerable to violence from armed groups.
“Due to insecurity, however, humanitarian access is increasingly challenging in many parts of Nigeria’s Borno State, including for UNHCR staff, who were forced to temporarily relocate out of Damasak in the past seven days,” Baloch said.
Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told the same briefing that aid operations had been temporarily suspended in the area since Sunday because of the insecurity.
“The situation on the ground is extremely critical and if this continues it will be impossible, maybe for longer periods of time, for us to deliver aid to those who desperately need it,” he said.
ISWAP, which split from the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2016, has become a dominant threat in Nigeria, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping civilians.

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