LAGOS, NIGERIA - Suspected Islamic extremists attacked the offices of several international aid groups, setting them ablaze and renewing concerns Sunday about the safety of humanitarian workers in Nigeria's embattled northeast.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Damasak town late Saturday, but suspicion immediately fell on a faction of extremists aligned with the Islamic State group. Last year the militants warned Nigerians they would become targets along with foreigners if they assisted international aid groups or the military.
Edward Kallon, United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, expressed concern for civilians and aid workers Sunday in the wake of the overnight attack.
"Humanitarian operations in Damasak will be reduced due to the violent attack, which will affect the support to 8,800 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection there," Kallon said in a statement.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said the attack "jeopardized our work and threatened the lives of many aid workers."
"Thankfully our five staff staying in Damasak town escaped unharmed. However, the perpetrators succeeded in setting our guesthouse ablaze and destroying lifesaving relief supplies, including vehicles used to deliver aid," said Eric Batonon, country director for the aid group.
Local authorities said the insurgents also looted drugs from a hospital in Damasak and stole an ambulance but were stopped from setting the building on fire.
An insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has now lasted more than a decade.
Militants from Boko Haram and the group known as ISWAP frequently target humanitarian hubs in northeast Nigeria. The attack on Damasak is the fourth on the town and its surrounding area this year and the second attack on humanitarians in the past two months in northeast Nigeria.