According to the UNHCR, at least three civilians have been killed in an attack on a camp housing thousands of Malian refugees in western Niger.
In what was described as a coordinated operation, some 50 fighters launched an attack against the Intikane refugee camp. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Niamey, the attack happened in the Tahoua region on Sunday afternoon.
The UNHCR said the three victims were the head of a refugee committee, the head of a refugee vigilance group and a representative of a Tahoua nomadic group. The attackers also abducted a guard and sabotaged the camp’s water supply.
According to the UNHCR, the attackers damaged the camp facilities. They also emptied the food supplies, destroying the system which supplies drinking water to the area. Alessandra Morelli, the UNHCR’s representative in Niger, denounced the attack.he said the terrorists have destroyed their space to live.
A security source told news agency that before the attack, the fighters destroyed telephone relay antennas in the area.
Related: Armed Groups Attack Convoys in Burkina Faso
Alongside the local population, the town of Intikane is hosting some 20,000 Malian refugees. It also houses 15,000 internally displaced Nigerien citizens who fled their villages due to violence perpetrated by armed groups.
Refugee Situation across the Sahel Region
In recent times, fighters with links to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group have increasingly mounted attacks across the Sahel. This is despite the presence of thousands of regional and foreign troops in the region.
This violence has hit Mali and Burkina Faso the hardest, rendering large swaths of those countries ungovernable. However, the violence has also spilled into Niger, which shares long and porous borders with its two neighbours.
Niger has become home to nearly 60,000 Malian refugees. This refugees fled their country’s north after it fell under the control of al-Qaeda-linked groups in 2012, according to the UNHCR. A French-led military intervention the following year pushed them out, but parts of Mali remain out of government control and awash with armed groups.
Niger has also endured unrest in its southeast from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province, a breakaway group from Boko Haram.
In January, the UN envoy for West Africa told the UN Security Council that attacks have increased fivefold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016. In 2019, more than 4,000 people were reported dead as a result of these attacks.