Fragile calm in northeast Nigeria town after jihadist assault

Tense calm returned to the northeast Nigerian town of Damasak on Sunday, the day after a jihadist attack on humanitarian facilities there killed at least four people, military and aid sources told AFP Sunday.

Dozens of fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) late Saturday stormed Damasak, in Borno state near the border with Niger, setting fire to facilities of international aid organisations.

ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had targeted an army camp killing two soldiers before raiding the town, according to the SITE agency that monitors jihadist communiques.

At least four people, including a soldier, were killed in the attack, the sources said.

The attack is the second in two months affecting one of nine United Nations hubs in the country where Islamist militants are engaged in a more than decade-long insurgency which has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million to flee their homes.

"The general situation within Damasak is relatively calm, but unpredictable," an aid worker with an international charity said.

UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria Edward Kallon condemned the attack and said in a statement that humanitarian operations for displaced people in the town would be reduced because of the violence.

The militants who tried to overrun a military base in the town were subdued with aerial support and "made to retreat" after three hours of fighting, a military source said.

"A soldier was killed and two more were injured in the encounter," the military officer said, adding that five ISWAP gun trucks were destroyed in the fight.

Jihadists also burnt the local police station in the Damasak attack.

At least three women were killed when a projectile hit a house where they had gone for a wedding ceremony, said another aid worker.

Four civilians were also injured.

Residents who fled towards the Niger border to escape the attack returned to the town on Sunday.

Apart from offices of humanitarian aid agencies, the insurgents burnt the house of the local chief, a medical facility, an ambulance and an operational vehicle of an aid agency, according to the two aid workers.

Damasak has repeatedly been targeted by ISWAP militants who have made several failed attempts to overrun a military outpost outside the town.

ISWAP, which split from the jihadist group Boko Haram in 2016, has become a dominant threat in Nigeria, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping passengers at bogus checkpoints.

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.

Due to worsening security, humanitarian workers in Nigeria are struggling to provide aid, with the number of people requiring urgent assistance forecast to rise to 8.7 million this year.

Topics: Islamic State West Africa Province , Nigeria , Boko Haram , Damasak
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