The United Nations expressed “grave concern” about an upsurge of violence in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, which has been ravaged by Islamist group Boko Haram’s insurgency.
Clashes in late December between government forces and “non-state armed groups” forced more than 30,000 people to flee to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, the UN said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The impact of the recent fighting on innocent civilians is devastating and has created a humanitarian tragedy,” said Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria. “It is heart-wrenching to see so many of these people living in congested camps, or sleeping outside with no shelter.”
Boko Haram, a faction of which is allied to Islamic State’s so-called West Africa Province, has waged a decade-long campaign of violence to impose its version of Shariah law on Africa’s most populous country. Its militants have stepped up attacks in recent months, including on army bases, ahead of February elections in which President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term.
Militants on Dec. 26 attacked a multinational army base in the town of Baga, near the borders of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, in Borno state, that led to several days of fighting. A Nigerian Air force helicopter crashed in the combat, killing five crew members.
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Some 260 aid workers have been withdrawn from three areas in Borno affected by the conflict since November, the UN said in the statement. This is “affecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of people. ”