The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has revealed that over 65,000 persons have fled Damasak following a series of attacks by armed groups on the town, Borno State.
Babar Baloch, Spokesperson of UNHCR said this on Friday at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, stating that Initial reports had indicated that eight people were killed and a dozen injured.
Baloch said the residents fled Damasak following the latest attack on Wednesday April 14, which was the third in seven days.
He stated that up to 80 per cent of the town’s population – including the local community and internally displaced people – were forced to flee.
“Assailants looted and burned down private homes, warehouses of humanitarian agencies, a police station, a clinic and a UNHCR Protection Desk. Those fleeing include Nigerians and Niger nationals living in the area,” Baloch said.
Baloch stated that many fled towards Borno State capital Maiduguri, and to Geidam town in neighbouring Yobe State, while others crossed into Niger’s Diffa region.
He said the staff and partners in both countries had immediately deployed assessment missions to identify the most pressing needs and tailor the response.
However, the Nigerian Army have insisted that the town is safe and secure, adding that no life was lost during the attack on Wednesday.
When questioned about the statement of the UN, Army Spokesperson Muhammed Yerima on Saturday said that the Army had released own statement over the matter and insisted the town was safe and secure.
“There is no controversy about the situation in Damasak. We stand by our position that the town is safe and secure,” Yerima said.
UNHRC Spokesperson in Nigeria Roland Schoenbauer said the agency had conducted its own assessment and would not concern itself with Nigeria’s military assessment.
“The answer is simple, we don’t make any military assessment and get into military details, we are Humanitarian. We made an assessment and put out an estimate that 80 per cent of the population previously living in Damasak, which amounts to 65,000 persons, was displaced due to recent attacks. All the rest being discussed is for others to assess,” Schoenbauer saidduring a telephone interview on Saturday.
An initial report of the attack in Damasak on Wednesday was that suspected insurgents razed down houses, the Divisional Police Command, schools and shops before they hoisted their flags in strategic locations of the town.
Chairman of Mobbar Local Government Area Mustapha Bunu Kolo was reported to have said that many people lost their lives and properties during the attack on Wednesday.
“I was also informed that many people lost their lives in the attack, but I don’t have the actual number of casualties as the insurgents are still much around, wreaking havoc on innocent civilians,” Kolo stated.