The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, on Saturday announced the suspension of humanitarian operations in Dikwa and Damasak towns in Borno State due to the gruesome Boko Haram attacks which also saw the destruction of UN property and offices.
Kallon, in a release, said UN and other aid workers have also been relocated from the crisis areas, as the humanitarian community continues to monitor the situation with many people in dire need of life-saving assistance.
The UN Chief said, “I am deeply concerned about the recent attacks on humanitarian operations in Dikwa and Damasak, affecting humanitarian assets and personnel. We have temporarily suspended operations in these areas in order to safely relocate humanitarian staff and are closely monitoring the situation. We intend to resume operations as soon as possible, so that civilians affected by the conflict continue to receive the assistance they need.
“I condemn in the strongest terms attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure which may constitute violations on International Humanitarian Law.”
Damasak has been in turmoil since last week with the Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province fighters attacking the town about five times in one week.
Last Friday, the Boko Haram fighters had destroyed highly priced items belonging to the UN, after burning UN buildings, two other humanitarian hubs and forcing aid workers to flee for their lives.
UN officials had told SaharaReporters on Monday that all the humanitarian workers in Damasak had been relocated to other places as a result of the attack, although all of them “were accounted for” after the onslaught.
“From the UN side, what the Boko Haram fighters burnt were our critical aid assets including offices, warehouses and humanitarian storage facilities. The fighters also burnt UN operational vehicles before attacking the other two neighbouring buildings belonging to some other organisations. I cannot verify their identity at the moment. All our aid workers were accounted for, and temporarily relocated. This means there will be a reduction of humanitarian footprints in Damasak,” the official had explained.
“The operations will be reduced to only critical assistance to affected communities. So we're not totally suspending operations in Damasak,” he added.
SaharaReporters had last Saturday reported that the terrorists, aided by their deadlier Islamic State West African Province fighters, set fire to the UN office and to at least three other international charity organisations contiguous to the UN facility.
“The terrorists came into the town in gun trucks. They first embarked on a looting spree. They carted away aid supplies meant for the Internally Displaced Persons before they set fire to the UN hub in the town and three other buildings belonging to other aid organisations,” a source in the town had narrated.
A military source confirmed the Saturday attack on Damasak but said the troops were fighting hard to ensure that the terrorists did not overrun the town.
“Their plan was to attack the military base first, but we repelled the invasion. Pockets of them then went to the UN facility. The Nigerian Air Force aircraft have been called in and they are currently engaging in air interdictions on the terrorists,” he stated.
On March 1, ISWAP jihadists overran a UN hub in Dikwa, killing six civilians and forcing aid workers to temporarily retreat from the town despite urgent humanitarian needs.
On March 15, the fighters had attacked Damasak, the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno.