Thousands of people have fled a camp hosting 20,000 Malian refugees in western Niger after a deadly jihadist attack devastated the site, the United Nations said Wednesday.
Around 50 jihadists on motorbikes killed three local leaders, abducted a guard, destroyed communication antennas and sabotaged the water supply at the Intikane site near the Malian border in a coordinated attack on Monday.
Intikane is home to around 20,000 Malian refugees and 15,000 internally displaced Niger citizens — all of whom previously fled their villages due to jihadist violence — as well as the local population.
Now many are on the move again, with some 3,000 people fleeing to Tlemces, a site 27 kilometres (43 miles) from Intikane, the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Niamey told AFP.
UNHCR official Kourouma Mamady Fatta said the agency was carrying out an assessment of the damage and was trying to get the water supply flowing again.
The governor of the Tahoua region, Moussa Abdourahamane, said “Intikane is losing its population, people are moving towards Tlemces”.
The jihadists “attacked the sensitive points of the site — they cut communication lines to isolate the population and they destroyed the sources for drinking water,” he told the national public radio station after visiting Intikane.
A radio report said troops had been deployed to secure the area.
Niger is home to nearly 60,000 Malian refugees who fled their country’s north after it fell under the control of Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in 2012, according to the UN.
A French-led military intervention pushed them out, but swathes of the West African country remain out of government control and awash with armed groups.
The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS), carries out frequent attacks over Niger’s western borders, while the southeast faces regular assaults from Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram.