Nigerian refugees returning from the Republic of Niger are helped into a vehicle to be transported back home by personel from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) | Photo: EPA/STR
Nigerian refugees returning from the Republic of Niger are helped into a vehicle to be transported back home by personel from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) | Photo: EPA/STR

More than a thousand people – a mix of refugees from Mali, displaced Niger nationals and local host communities – have fled their home area in western Niger after an attack which killed three people and wounded others, UNHCR said in a statement Tuesday.

More than a thousand people – a mix of refugees from Mali, displaced Niger nationals and local host communities – are on the run following a brutal attack by irregular armed elements on a site in western Niger on Sunday afternoon which killed three people and wounded others, UNHCR noted in a statement issued on Tuesday. 


Over 50 armed men on motorbikes had swarmed into Intikane, Tahoua region – some 72 kilometres from the Malian border – targeted and killed two Malian refugee leaders and a local host community leader. 

The site hosts some 20,000 refugees and an additional 15,000 displaced Niger nationals, it said. 

Food supplies and aid set on fire 

In addition to brutally killing the three men, the assailants torched food supplies and other aid items. They also destroyed mobile phone towers and the main water station and pipes, cutting communication and the water supply to the displaced population and host communities, the statement noted. 

Around 1,100 people have now arrived outside the town of Telemces, some 27 kilometers away from the attack site. They urgently need water, food and other assistance. National authorities and partners are on the ground, to receive and register them. 

UNHCR said: ''Sunday’s brutal assassinations shocked refugees, local communities and humanitarian workers. More attacks are now feared. Worsening insecurity in the region is driving people to look for safety to further inland in Niger.'' 

Call for civilian protection 

''UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, condemns the killings and call on all sides to respect civilian lives, bring those responsible to justice and make sure such heinous crimes do not repeat in the future,'' the statement stressed. 

"We are working with partners and local authorities to provide immediate assistance, especially trucking in water with other relief supplies, as people could die of thirst in the desert heat. Water is also needed to help fight COVID19,'' it noted. 

The past few months have seen a sharp increase in attacks in the Liptako Gourma region, where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger share borders, forcing people living in the area to flee. 

Despite violent attacks and insecurity severely limiting humanitarian access to those in need of protection and assitance, UNHCR is stepping up its response in Niger, focusing especially on providing shelter, education and programmes to prevent and address sexual and gender-based violence, it said. 

Niger also continues to demonstrate its commitment to protecting people fleeing violence. 

''UNHCR renews its urgent call on warring parties in the Sahel to protect civilians, people forced to flee and communities hosting them, as civilians are bearing the brunt of increasing attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In the past couple of months, refugee camps in Burkina Faso have also been the target of attacks and incursion, forcing many to leave,'' the UN body concluded.
 

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