A failure to protect hundreds of thousands of civilians could lead to a disastrous humanitarian crisis said Amnesty International with reports of two large scale attacks in Nigeria on the major north-eastern city of Maiduguri as well as the nearby town of Monguno.
“These ongoing attacks by Boko Haram are significant and grim news. We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director.
“People in and around Maiduguri need immediate protection. If the military doesn’t succeed in stopping Boko Haram’s advance they may be trapped with nowhere else to turn.”
Amnesty International has received reports that at 6am on Sunday, gunmen attacked the base of 33 Artillery brigade at Jintilo village, just 6km outside Maiduguri. There are reports of ongoing fighting at the air force base closer to Maiduguri.
The Nigerian military has responded with air strikes and moved tanks and troops to the area.
Civilians have reportedly fled the areas near to Jintilo towards central Maiduguri. However, not all civilians have been able to leave.
“One resident told us: ‘If Maiduguri is attacked, we have nowhere else to go. Kano Road was the only way out’”, said Netsanet Belay.
“All parties to the conflict urgently need to ensure that civilians who wish to evacuate Maiduguri are able to do so. In order to allow civilians to escape the fighting in Maiduguri, military operations should not be conducted along the main point of access: Kano Road.”
Amnesty International is also calling on all parties to the conflict to refrain from military operations in the vicinity of the hospitals in Maiduguri and any other medical facilities.
“The government must ensure the protection of its civilians is at the core of its operations at this very dangerous time. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Maiduguri. Tens of thousands of people had already fled to Maiduguri from several other villages and towns attacked and controlled by Boko Haram, and are now living in camps there. The government’s failure to protect residents of Maiduguri at this time could lead to a disastrous humanitarian crisis.”
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council is expected to discuss on 29 January a possible regional force against Boko Haram.