Niger: attacks near refugee areas prompt Malian refugees to flee camp
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
An attack by an unidentified armed group took place yesterday morning (Thursday) in the town of Ouallam, some 100 kilometres north of the capital of Niger, Niamey, in what appears to have been an attempt to free prisoners from the town's jail. In a simultaneous attack, the National Guard post responsible for providing security in the Mangaize refugee camp, located some 40 kilometers from Ouallam and 70 kilometers from the Mali border, was also attacked. The security post on the outskirts of the camp was burned down and four police officers killed. The camp hosts some 6,000 Malian refugees.
Details are still sketchy at this point, but initial information indicates that up to 9 members of the police and the National Guard might have been killed in these attacks. Two refugees were wounded in Mangaize camp by stray bullets. One refugee woman has been medically evacuated to Niamey. After the attack on Thursday, almost all of the refugees left the camp and fled to the adjacent Mangaize village for fear of new attacks. As of this morning (Friday), our team on the ground is reporting that most of the refugees have now returned to the camp.
Reinforcements for the security forces have been deployed to the area. It is feared that the attackers, who were heavily armed, could have laid mines in the surroundings to ensure their escape into neighbouring Mali. Only essential and life-saving humanitarian activities, such as for instance water-trucking to the camp, will continue. Niger is hosting some 50,000 Malian refugees.
The authorities have declared three days of national mourning. UNHCR presented its condolences to the authorities and the families of the police officers, in particular those who were guarding the refugee camp.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Dakar, Hélène Caux on mobile +221 77 333 12 91
- In Niger, Karl Steinacker on mobile +227 92192417
- In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011