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Malian refugees, local hosts flee after attack on site in western Niger

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than a thousand people – a mix of refugees from Mali, displaced Niger nationals and local host communities – are on the run following a brutal attack by irregular armed elements on a site in western Niger on Sunday afternoon which killed three people and wounded others.

Over 50 armed men on motorbikes had swarmed into Intikane, Tahoua region - some 72 kilometres from the Malian border targeted and killed two Malian refugee leaders and a local host community leader. The site hosts some 20,000 refugees and an additional 15,000 displaced Niger nationals.

In addition to brutally killing the three men, the assailants torched food supplies and other aid items. They also destroyed mobile phone towers and the main water station and pipes, cutting communication and the water supply to the displaced population and host communities.

Around 1,100 people have now arrived outside the town of Telemces, some 27 kilometres away from the attack site. They urgently need water, food and other assistance. National authorities and partners are on the ground, to receive and register them.

Sunday’s brutal assassinations shocked refugees, local communities and humanitarian workers. More attacks are now feared. Worsening insecurity in the region is driving people to look for safety to further inland in Niger.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, condemns the killings and calls on all sides to respect civilian lives, bring those responsible to justice and make sure such heinous crimes do not repeat in the future.

We are working with partners and local authorities to provide immediate assistance, especially trucking in water with other relief supplies, as people could die of thirst in the desert heat. Water is also needed to help fight COVID19.

The past few months have seen a sharp increase in attacks in the Liptako Gourma region, where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger share borders, forcing people living in the area to flee.

Despite violent attacks and insecurity severely limiting humanitarian access to those in need of protection and assistance, UNHCR is stepping up its response in Niger, focusing especially on providing shelter, education and programmes to prevent and address sexual and gender-based violence.

Niger also continues to demonstrate its commitment to protecting people fleeing violence.

UNHCR renews its urgent call on warring parties in the Sahel to protect civilians, people forced to flee and communities hosting them, as civilians are bearing the brunt of increasing attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In the past couple of months, refugee camps in Burkina Faso have also been the target of attacks and incursion, forcing many to leave.

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