Over 50,000 flee Boko Haram at­tacks in Niger

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - NIAMEY—About

50,000 peo­ple have fled a town in Niger’s trou­bled south­east af­ter deadly at­tacks by Boko Haram in­sur­gents, the United Na­tions said Tues­day.

The at­tacks be­gan Fri­day against a mil­i­tary post in Bosso in Niger’s Diffa re­gion, killing 26 sol­diers in­clud­ing two from neigh­bour­ing Nige­ria.

“An es­ti­mated 50,000 peo­ple or so fled,” UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman Adrian Ed­wards told re­porters in Geneva.

A to­tal of 55 in­sur­gents from the Nige­ri­abased Is­lamist group were killed and “many” in­jured, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties.

Ed­wards said most of those flee­ing the vi­o­lence walked west­wards to Toumour, some 30 kilo­me­tres west of Bosso.

“Many peo­ple are re­port­edly trau­ma­tised and wor­ried about their safety. Peo­ple are sleep­ing in the open and ur­gently need shel­ter and other as­sis­tance,” he said. A lo­cal jour­nal­ist work­ing with Ra­dio An­fani told AFP he was shel­ter­ing in Toumour with no food, along with many oth­ers who fled the vi­o­lence.

“The Boko Haram gun­men stayed in Bosso from 6:30 pm (1730 GMT) on Fri­day to 3:00 am on Satur­day, burn­ing the mil­i­tary bar­racks, po­lice fa­cil­i­ties and lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice be­fore loot­ing shops and cart­ing away food sup­plies,” he said.

“Every­body started leav­ing the town and sur­round­ing vil­lages at dawn af­ter the gun­men had left.” He said that the gun­men used heavy ar­tillery which al­lowed them to over­run the town’s gar­ri­son.

“They came in large num­bers shout­ing ‘Al­lahu Ak­bar’ (God is Great­est),” he said.

The jour­nal­ist, who de­clined to be named, said that he sub­se­quently learned that the fight­ers re­turned later on Sun­day and “en­gaged troops re­de­ployed to the town in fierce bat­tle”.

“The troops re­treated, leav­ing Boko Haram mil­i­tants in con­trol of the town,” he said, although the claims could not im­me­di­ately be ver­i­fied. How­ever, Niger’s de­fence min­is­ter As­soumana Malam Issa has said that the mil­i­tary had re­gained con­trol of the town.

Ed­wards said some of those dis­placed had moved on from Toumour and were head­ing to the town of Diffa, around 140 kilo­me­tres west of Bosso, and north­wards to­wards a camp for in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple that is al­ready near­ing its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 10,000.

“The wel­fare of th­ese peo­ple and oth­ers forced to flee the vi­o­lence in Bosso is of great con­cern,” he said.

The lat­est attack was among the dead­li­est by the ji­hadist group in Niger since it be­gan launch­ing raids in the coun­try in Fe­bru­ary 2015 from its strong­hold in neigh­bour­ing Nige­ria.

At least 240,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed in the Diffa re­gion since then.

UNHCR, which has not had a pres­ence in Bosso since the Boko Haram raids be­gan nearly a year and a half ago, said it was work­ing with the au­thor­i­ties and lo­cal part­ners to co­or­di­nate the re­sponse to the mass ex­o­dus.

“A team will be en route to the Diffa re­gion this week,” Ed­wards said.

Boko Haram’s seven-year in­sur­gency has dev­as­tated in­fra­struc­ture in Nige­ria’s im­pov­er­ished north­east and forced around 2.1 mil­lion peo­ple in the coun­try to flee their homes, ac­cord­ing to UNHCR The un­rest has left at least 20,000 peo­ple dead in Nige­ria and made more than 2.6 mil­lion home­less.—AFP

QUETTA: Smug­glers wait­ing for pub­lic trans­port af­ter by­pass­ing a check post on Chaman Road.

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