The U.N. refugee agency condemns two suicide attacks by Nigeria’s militant Boko Haram group in Western Chad over the weekend, killing and maiming scores of people, among them internally displaced people.
Suicide bombers, including three women and two teenage boys, attacked a fish market Saturday in the Chadian town of Baga Sola and the Kousseri site for internally displaced people on the outskirts of the city. The attacks left 47 dead and wounded dozens of others. Nearly half of the dead were from the displaced peoples’ camp.
U.N. refugee spokesman Leo Dobbs told VOA this was the first such attack in Baga Sola.
“In recent weeks and months the government has encouraged people to move away from the islands in Lake Chad as it gears up for an offensive against Boko Haram. And so, tens of thousands have moved from their homes, and they have been displaced and they find it very difficult to cope,” he said.
A new 8,700-member regional force has been set up in Chad to tackle militant Boko Haram Islamists. It has not yet started operations.
In recent weeks, Dobbs said the UNHCR has stepped up assistance to the 60,000 internally displaced people who normally live on islands in the lake.
“Their lives have been disrupted by the increasing violence that has spread from Nigeria into neighboring countries. These people are living in desperate conditions. They lack livelihoods. They lack shelter. They lack food. They lack health care,” he said.
The UNHCR is one of several agencies that work in the Dar es Salam refugee camp, 10 kilometers from Baga Sola. Dobbs said all aid workers and more than 7,000 refugees in the camp from Nigeria and Niger were safe.
But he said travel to and within the Lake Chad region has been suspended and U.N. flights were on standby to transport people out of the area or bring in emergency supplies.