UN coordinator condemns Boko Haram attack on civilians, aid workers in Borno town
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EDWARD Kallon, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, has condemned Boko Haram’s renewed attacks on civilians and aid workers in Dikwa, a town in Borno State.
In a statement seen by The ICIR, Kallon said he was enraged by the attack and was concerned with the safety of civilians and aid workers in the town.
He called for adequate and maximum security of civilians and aid workers in the region.
“I am gravely preoccupied by reports on an ongoing violent attack by non-state armed groups in Dikwa, Borno State, during which several aid facilities were directly targeted. The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze and sustained damage,” he said.
“I strongly condemn the attack and deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Dikwa, including internally displaced people inside and outside camps and thousands of people who had returned to the community to rebuild their lives after years in displacement.
“The violent attack will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic risks spreading in Borno State.
“Civilians and aid workers, their facilities and assets should never be a target. They must be protected and respected at all times. I call on all armed parties to immediately stop the violence and respect international humanitarian law and human rights law and ensure the protection 0f civilians, humanitarian and personnel.”
The insurgents had engaged security operatives in a gun battle before taking control of the ancient town in an attack that started on Monday evening and lasted till the early hours of Tuesday.
They were also said to have breached the security of a United Nations Hub in North-East Nigeria and then laid siege to the facility, causing humanitarian workers and guests to retreat to a fortified bunker within the facility.
Dikwa town is about 90km from Maiduguri, Borno State capital, and has experienced several attacks from the insurgents since the liberation of the town in 2016.
The town hosts the military Super Camp 9 where the chief of army staff visited last week.
The attack on Dikwa came barely days after the military engaged the insurgents in a battle to retake Marte Local Government Area from the militants.
It also came days after Babagana Zulum, Borno State governor, visited the town, distributing relief items that included cash to the victims of the previous attacks.
Mohammed Yerima, director of army public relations, said the terrorists “attempted to invade the town to loot food items and other logistics, having got wind of the recent food distribution to residents of the town by the state governor, Professor Babagana Zulum.”
He said the terrorists stormed the town in an unconfirmed number of gun trucks and motorcycles.
The army spokesman said the military was able to repel the attack with “heavy bombardment and overwhelming firepower by troops of 81 Task Force Battalion with reinforcement from other formations of the Nigerian Army and aided by air support of Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE.”
He noted that they could not gain access to the town due to the combat-readiness of troops who were positioned there.
“The terrorists subsequently lost initiative as they were cut off completely following the recent successful recapture of Marte town by the gallant troops.
“In desperation and to scare off residents from returning to their homes, they planted series of landmines on the roads which were also detected and successfully detonated by troops,” he said.
The army spokesman decried some media reports suggesting that the terrorists attacked a United Nations base in the north-eastern state.
While noting that such reports were aimed at stirring up tension in the country, he said 25 aid workers were not trapped.
He also explained that the chief of army staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, had commended the efforts of the gallant troops and the prompt response of the Air Task Force in providing air interdictions throughout the operation.
President Muhammadu Buhari reshuffled the military command this year, raising hopes of a shift in strategy to end a 12-year-old conflict that has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million to flee their homes.