Nigeria is planning to boost security measures at displacement camps in the country's conflict-stricken northeast, following a twin suicide bombing in the northeastern Borno state that left 60 dead.
Two women carried out the suicide attacks at the center of the camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the town of Dikwa as people were gathered to pick up food rations on Tuesday. More than 70 people were injured as well. Nigeria's government responded with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo tweeting about the plans to improve security.
"Words can't capture the anguish we felt, when our citizens were subjected to the terror of the suicide bombing at the IDP camp in Dikwah," he wrote, later adding "The full weight of the Federal Government's force will be deployed to hunt down the perpetrators of this evil act."
Words can— Prof Yemi Osinbajo (@ProfOsinbajo) February 10, 2016
The full weight of the Federal Government— Prof Yemi Osinbajo (@ProfOsinbajo) February 10, 2016
Osinbajo also said a directive had already been issued for "formidable security" both inside and outside of the camps, while saying new measures would be implemented to prevent future incidents. The politician did not give any details on how either of these efforts would be done. Currently, security is handled by Nigerian military, police, and other security forces.
No groups have yet claimed responsibility for the attack but the northern region of the country is entrenched in the 7-year long insurgency waged by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The group has also been known to use female suicide bombers.
The US Embassy in Nigeria offered its support on Thursday in statement condemning the bombings.
"The US remains committed to assisting internally displaced populations in North-Eastern Nigeria through humanitarian relief efforts," the embassy said. "We will also continue to support the Nigerian government in its fight against terrorism."
This week's bombing comes on the heels of a brutal January 31 attack, which officials suspect was carried out by Boko Haram, in the village of Dalori, located near the Borno state capital Maiduguri and about 50 miles from Dikwa. The attack involved suicide bombings, firing at villagers, and setting fire to houses, and left more than 60 people dead. Following the attack in Dalori, which also saw two displacement camps in the area fall under attack, security forces reportedly stopped all movement going in and out of the government camps.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in the north have fled their homes over the last year in the face of continued attacks by Boko Haram. In 2015 alone, more than 500,000 children were forced out of their homes in the country, while also coming in from neighboring countries where the militants have expanded their reach. There are now more than 2.2 million displaced people in the country, with 1.6 million residing in Maiduguri, which has borne the brunt of the insurgency.
About 8 percent of the displaced population — approximately 180,000 people — lives in formal camps, while the remaining have fled to other communities in less formal living situations, according to International Rescue Committee's Nigeria country director Sarah Ndikumana. These individuals are not counted in official statistics and the influx has created an increased burden for host communities, putting a strain on overstretched resources and services.
The spike in people fleeing their homes along with the increase in attacks comes even after Nigeria's military claimed victories against the militant group over the last year. The government said it has regained territory previously captured by the home-grown Islamist militant group. While the group has been pushed from some of its strongholds and a regional force against Boko Haram has boosted efforts, security experts have pointed to the fact that this has simply caused the militants to shift their tactics and carry out a guerrilla-style campaign.
The recent attacks in Dalori and the camp in Dikwa have delivered a blow to public confidence in Borno State, according to Ndikumana.
"This constant sense of vulnerability is omnipresent," she said. "Those living in camps have been through repeated traumatic experiences at the hands of Boko Haram and are even more aware of the risks and the impact of such attacks on their lives."
Ndikumana said the latest violence in the area shows that it is still not safe enough for internally displaced people to return home. In recent months the Nigerian government has been supporting returns in the northeast, despite continuing insecurity and fears among the displaced population about going back home.
"We have major concerns over sustainable returns and the humanitarian community being able to continue to support [internally displaced persons] as they go back to their villages of origin, as we can neither guaranty their or our own safety under the current circumstances," she said.
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