UNHCR is shocked and greatly saddened by a deadly attack on a Malian 'refugee hosting area' in the west of Niger yesterday, the 6th of October
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.
At approximately 3:00 pm, the military position in the refugee hosting area of Tazalit in the region of Tahoua, bordering Mali was attacked by armed assailants, whose identities are not yet known. The attack resulted in the deaths of 22 Nigerien military officers and the injury of five others. It is reported that the remaining three military officers who were at the post at the time, managed to escape unharmed. The ‘refugee hosting area’ currently hosts almost 4,000 refugees, however none were harmed during the attack.
The armed assailants are reported to have arrived at the site in two pick up trucks. Witnesses say that following the attack, the assailants stayed in the area for up to 2 hours, and looted the health centre, stealing vital medical stocks. They also burned a UNHCR ambulance. No UNHCR staff or partners were present when the attack took place. The attackers then stole a military vehicle and fled, before support arrived.
This is not the first attack against security forces guarding Malian refugee camps in Niger. On the 10th of September, armed assailants attacked a security post at the camp of Tabareybarey in the region of Tillabery, which also borders Mali and is home to almost 10,000 refugees. A young Malian refugee woman of 18 years was killed, as well as a 5 year old refugee boy. Five others were shot and wounded.
UNHCR strongly condemns these acts of violence against people who were working to protect and secure the safety of vulnerable Malian refugees, who have been forced to flee their country since violence and civil war broke out in 2012. UNHCR is also troubled by the increasing number of violent incidents in the western regions of Niger bordering Mali, including ambushes, armed robbery and mine incidents.
Immediately following the attacks, UNHCR sent a team from Niamey to the site to identify needs and provide a response. Senior staff will travel to the area on Saturday to meet the community and the authorities and express support and solidarity.
Despite the fact that the Algiers Peace Accord was signed in June 2015 between several of the conflicting parties in Mali, inter-communal and inter-ethnic violence continues in the northern part of the country, forcing more refugees to flee to neighboring Niger. The UN MINUSMA forces in Kidal in Northern Mali also suffered attacks and casualties during the week.
Niger currently hosts over 60,000 Malian refugees, and welcomed over 5,000 new arrivals in 2016 alone. Niger also hosts over 80,000 Nigerian refugees in the east of the country. UNHCR appreciates the solidarity shown by the Niger government welcoming vulnerable refugees fleeing both Mali and northern Nigeria. UNHCR’s MoU with the Niger government regarding the provision of security in the refugee camps and hosting areas was amended in August to include the camps in the Diffa region, hosting refugees fleeing Boko Haram.
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