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United Nations in Nigeria Says Probe into Aid Worker Killing Underway

Borno State, Nigeria
Borno State, Nigeria

The U.N. in Nigeria has described the killing of an aid worker by a soldier in northeast Borno State as deeply disturbing and sad.

A soldier with Nigeria's 25 Task Force Brigade on Thursday shot a woman working for the French aid group Médecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World. The soldier also killed one of his colleagues who tried to disarm him and injured a U.N. pilot.

In a statement Friday, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, condemned the attack by a Nigerian soldier and said all humanitarian workers must be protected in order to stay and deliver life-saving assistance to people in need — in often difficult and dangerous circumstances.

The soldier was “neutralized” by troops at the Damboa base in Borno state, the military said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the attack, but security forces in Borno have been engaged in a grinding counterinsurgency operation.

The military said in a statement that subsequent remedial actions have commenced into what it called “the highly regrettable incident.”

Schmale was pleased with the military’s statement.

“The silver lining in all of this is that the military very quickly issued their own statement which basically has the same substance,” he told VOA by phone. “So, there's no basic disagreement in this case of what happened. Both military, government and we are now doing our investigations and we'll have to see [what happens], so it will be speculative at this point.”

A military spokesperson did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment, nor did anyone from the French aid group, Médecins du monde.

Security analyst Chidi Omeje said the soldier may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“It is clearly an outcome of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Omeje said. “Some of these guys have actually complained about rotation issues and they're not able to rotate them. Most of them are exposed to the elements, to dangers, to all kinds of stuff. The guy clearly ran amok, it's a strange development, probably the troops are getting war weary.”

Nigerian forces have been battling Islamist militants in the northeast for more than 12 years. Hundreds of soldiers have died defending the state.

Soldiers have also been deployed to address internal security issues, such as battling armed gangs and kidnapping rings across the country.

Security experts say Nigerian authorities have not invested adequately in stress management for troops on the front lines.

“It's something that is serious, but I don't know how serious the military is taking it,” said Senator Iroegbu, publisher of the security magazine Global Sentinel. “Though there has been some sensitization towards that, I remember the first lady made some reference to it but what are their living conditions, how are they being treated?”

In 2020, a soldier opened fire on his colleagues at an army base in Malam Fatori, killing four of them.

In November last year, the Nigerian military held a mental health awareness program for troops to put a spotlight on psychological issues some might be suffering as a result of the ongoing fight against terror.

FILE - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, left, with his wife, Aisha Buhari, speaks after voting in his hometown Daura, Nigeria, Feb. 23, 2019.
FILE - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, left, with his wife, Aisha Buhari, speaks after voting in his hometown Daura, Nigeria, Feb. 23, 2019.

Last month, Nigeria's first lady Aisha Buhari admitted that President Muhammadu Buhari suffered from PTSD after leaving the army, which prompted a group of military and police wives to commission a PTSD center for the armed forces.