3,000 flee to Niger in latest Boko Haram attack

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Refugees and returnees who have fled Boko Haram violence in Borno State, Nigeria, sheltering in Niger’s Guesseré village on the border. Photo: IRIN/Anna Jefferys (file photo)

More than 3,000 people have fled for their lives across the Nigerian border into Niger after an attack by Boko Haram fighters, the UN's refugee agency said Friday.

Terrified civilians from the town of Damassak in northern Nigeria have told how the attackers killed young men and shot at women and children.

Up to 50 people reportedly died in the attack earlier this week.

UN spokesman Adrian Edwards said that the Nigerian town is believed to be in the hands of the insurgents who targeted it after efforts to form a local militia against them.

The victims of the fighting fled with nothing, according to Mr Edwards:

"Our teams in Diffa say people are still arriving as a result of the attack while most wait for boats to cross the Komodugu/Yobe river separating the two countries, others try to swim to safety; we've had reports from local inhabitants of people drowning while trying to cross the river, others were reportedly shot by Boko Haram forces who chased them to the river bank. Refugees said they had no time to collect their belongings they had to leave everything behind."

It's the second major Boko Haram attack on a Nigerian town in two months and it follows repeated offensives which have led the Nigerian government to declare a state of emergency in the north-eastern states.

Victims of the fighting have also fled to other neighbouring countries including Cameroon and Chad, UNHCR said; in total there are more than 700,000 internally displaced people in Nigeria.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'25"

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