ABUJA: Three aid workers were confirmed killed in a Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria, the UN said on Friday, in the latest violence to underscore the jihadists’ enduring threat.
The world body and two security sources initially said four people were killed in the attack in the remote town of Rann on Thursday evening but later revised the death toll.
Rann is located some 175 kilometres (110 miles) east of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, near the border with Cameroon and communications, are difficult.
A UN spokeswoman in Abuja, Samantha Newport, said the attack happened “after dark” outside a camp housing some 55,000 people displaced by the conflict.
“Of the aid workers that were killed, two worked for the IOM (International Organization for Migration) in camp management; and one was a medical doctor working as a third-party consultant for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund ),” the UN children’s agency, she added.
Three aid workers were injured and a female nurse was missing, feared abducted. All those killed, injured or missing were Nigerian.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said: “Aid workers put their lives on the line every single day to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable women, children and men.
“Our deepest condolences go to the families of the victims and our brave colleagues and we call on authorities to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice and account.”
There was no immediate confirmation of deaths or injuries among the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) but a civilian militia source in Rann and a senior military figure in Maiduguri said eight soldiers were killed.
Boko Haram fighters “in large numbers” appeared to target troops protecting the camp, they said.
Mohammed Abdiker, IOM director of operations and emergencies, said the militants had “superior firepower” and were “armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and gun trucks.”
“We are outraged and saddened at the killings of two of our colleagues in an attack by Boko Haram in North East Nigeria last evening,” he added.
Rann, where nearly 80,000 people are living and supported with humanitarian assistance, has been vulnerable to attacks before.
Boko Haram fighters killed nine people from the camp in September last year, as they worked on farms just outside the town.
In January 2017, a botched Nigerian airstrike intended to hit jihadist fighters killed at least 112 people as aid workers distributed food.
Commanders at the time called the bombing a mistake and blamed “the fog of war”.
The latest Rann attack comes nearly two weeks after Boko Haram kidnapped 110 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi in neighbouring Yobe state.
The kidnapping and continued attacks in the region have raised questions about the extent of the Nigerian government’s claims to have virtually defeated Boko Haram.
Boko Haram’s quest to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 20,000 dead and made more than 2.6 million others homeless since 2009.
The jihadists have increasingly turned to kidnapping for ransom as a way to finance their operations and win back key commanders in prisoner swaps with the Nigerian government.