Armed ViolenceNews

UN Helicopter Comes Under Gunfire In Borno

A United Nations humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) helicopter came under fire in Damasak, Mobbar local government in the volatile northern Borno region.

The helicopter was able to return to Maiduguri airbase shortly after the attack on Thursday 2, July 2020.

The UNHAS was supporting a World Food Programme food distribution mission in the area.

HumAngle reported an attack a day after the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum led the distribution of food palliative to over 12,000 households in Damasak.

It is not yet clear if the casualties of yesterday’s attack by the Islamic State affiliate in the Lake Chad (ISWAP) include those travelling in the helicopter.

ISWAP has claimed responsibility for the attack on Damasak on Amaq, a news channel often used by the terror group to promote their violent campaign.

HumAngle gathered that the UNHAS use distinctive white paint and UN marking on the Bell 412 and 212 helicopters deployed in the region for humanitarian operations.

In a statement to HumAngle, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria and partners expressed sincere condolences to the families of civilians who lost their lives in the attack. “The United Nations and NGO partners in Nigeria are working to bring vital assistance to over seven million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe,” said the statement.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Nigeria condemns any attacks against humanitarian assets or aid workers and calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property and personnel in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HumAngle gathered that air transport is crucial for humanitarian operations in the Lake Chad region due to security risks associated with the roads. They deliver crucial medical and food supplies to hard-to-reach areas in the Northeast and transport aid workers and injured civilians.

“Since the beginning of operations in August 2015, UNHAS Nigeria has provided access to 92 organizations, comprising of NGOs, UN agencies, and members of the donor and diplomatic community” according to a WFP January 2018 report.

The report added that Between January and December 2017, 4 helicopters based in Maiduguri successfully transported 29,406 passengers and 104,287 kg of urgently required cargo to 11 locations in Borno State and one location in Yobe State on behalf of 88 humanitarian organisations.

Following the recent attack in Maiduguri, UNHAS increased their flight operations, safety measures when flying over the Sambisa forest, according to a source familiar with UNHAS operations.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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