Kano, Nigeria | AFP | Nigerian forces conducted an unauthorised dawn raid on the UN’s main base in the country’s conflict-torn northeast on Friday, the UN said, further inflaming tensions between the government and aid groups.
A UN source told AFP that the search of the camp in Maiduguri, known as the “Red Roof”, was illegal under international law and may have been triggered by inaccurate information that a key leader of the Boko Haram jihadists was at the base.
“Information about (Boko Haram leader Abubakar) Shekau’s presence in the Red Roof was already being spread yesterday on social media,” said a memo issued to local staff by the UN’s Department of Safety and seen by AFP.
The compound is one of the few safe havens in the region which has been rocked by violence carried out by Boko Haram since it launched an insurgency in 2009.
“At about 2 a.m. early this morning, Nigeria Army troops in trucks are conducting… (a) search on UN Red Roof Humanitarian camp and forced their way into the property,” said the internal document.
A witness who declined to be named told AFP by text message that there was a tense two-hour-long standoff between guards at the compound and the Nigerian forces as they sought to enter the base.
– ‘Terrified all of us’ –
“There were initial fears the armed men were Boko Haram insurgents disguised as soldiers which terrified all of us at the Red Roof,” another UN staff member contacted by phone told AFP.
Workers on the base sought refuge in a secure safe room during the search, they added.
The UN team in Maiduguri was ordered to work from home by the security note which warned of possible demonstrations against the organisation and other foreign groups active in the area.