Nigeria: Aid convoy driver killed, 6 people missing after ambush near Damasak

An aid convoy driver was killed and six people are missing following an ambush in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, the NGO Action Against Hunger said on Friday, July 19.

Action Against Hunger (also called ACF) said in a statement that a member of staff was among the missing after a convoy of aid workers was ambushed on the road to Damasak near the border with Niger on Thursday.

“One of the drivers was killed, while one Action Against Hunger staff member, two of the drivers and three health workers are missing,” the statement said.

The ambush happened in Kennari, a village outside Damasak, AFP reported.

The three-vehicle convoy was returning to Damasak from Layi village where ACF runs a clinic when gunmen opened fire, AFP said, citing a humanitarian source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the vehicles veered off the road and crashed into a tree, killing the driver.

“The four were stuck in the vehicle and seized by the attackers,” the humanitarian source said.

“The occupants in the other vehicles abandoned their vehicles and fled on foot to Damasak, eight kilometres [five miles] away,” the source added.

The Islamic State West Africa Province faction of Boko Haram is active in the wider area, on both sides of the border, although it is not clear which group, if any, was behind the attack.

Damasak is around 160 km (100 miles) north of Borno state capital Maiduguri, on the Kamadougou river that marks the border between Nigeria and Niger.

ISWAP’s main area of operations is further east in the Lake Chad area, but there has been a string of attacks on military bases north of Maiduguri.

In June, ISIS claimed ISWAP fighters attacked a military base in Kareto, around 24 km south of Damasak.

Across the border in Niger, ISIS said ISWAP was behind the April 25 attack on a Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) facility in Mainé Soroa, Diffa, that injured a guard and seriously damaged the office.

On May 2, ISWAP attacked another MSF office in Weida Bangou, near Banibangou in western Niger. A vehicle stolen from the facility is believed to have been used in a later ISWAP attack on Koutoukalé prison.

The jihadist group known as Boko Haram began its bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One, led by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which it calls Islamic State West Africa Province.

The ISWAP faction largely focuses on attacking military and government targets.

Since May, Islamic State has attributed insurgent activities in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area to its West Africa Province affiliate, rather than to what was previously known as Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. In a June 15 ISIS propaganda video, ISWAP militants purportedly in Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso were shown reaffirming their pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Baghdadi.

The regional counter-insurgency Multinational Joint Task Force which comprises personnel from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria, launched Operation Yancin Tafki on February 21 to battle the insurgents. It has said the cross-border operation is aimed at “making islands and other settlements in Lake Chad untenable for Boko Haram Terrorists.”

With reporting from AFP

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