Terrorist Attack in Northeast Nigeria Targets Humanitarians

04/13/2021 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – Militants believed to be connected to Islamic State (IS) attacked a United Nations humanitarian hub in the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak over the weekend. At least four individuals lost their lives in the attack, including two soldiers, and numerous facilities were burned along with significant life-saving equipment.

The attack highlights a growing pattern in which IS-affiliated militants intentionally target humanitarian aid workers—a trend concerning not only because of its impact on the workers themselves but also for the harm it brings to the communities those workers were serving. In Damasak, 85,000 people rely on humanitarian aid, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs which announced on Monday that its operations in Damasak would be temporarily suspended.

“Large communities will have no relief nor protection” after the attack, warned Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norway Refugee Council. Their office in Damasak experienced substantial damage. “[The] Nigerian government and international donors [must] do more to help us stay and deliver.”

Other humanitarian organizations were also targeted in the attack, which caused at least 1,000 residents to flee into the bush. Militants looted the city hospital but were prevented from burning it by one of their commanders, according to the Premium Times. The commander was apparently unwilling to burn the hospital with patients inside. Similar decisions have been observed elsewhere in the area, though likely less from altruism and more from a desire to recruit militants out of the local population.

The attackers are believed to be with Boko Haram or ISWAP, both IS-affiliated terror groups connected to major attacks across the region, including on vulnerable Christian communities. Several factors, including economics and political disaffection, play into the conflict, but their connection to IS raises the issue of religion to the forefront and necessitates that they target Christians specifically—something that they have done repeatedly.

As IS grows its power in Africa, Christian communities will find themselves in ever-increasing danger. IS in Africa is dangerous—for humanitarian aid workers, for free religious expression, for peace.

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