Nigerians return to Rann after fleeing Boko Haram

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At least 10,000 Nigerians returned to a flashpoint town after fleeing to Cameroon to escape repeated attacks over the past few months according to a UN humanitarian report.

The returnees were among 40,386 civilians who fled four attacks Rann since December, the report said.

All who fled returned to north-east Nigeria, the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres said earlier on Wednesday.

“Reports from sources on the ground indicate hundreds more are en route to Rann from Cameroon by foot,” the UN report said. “All are in dire need of humanitarian assistance including shelter, food and safe water.”

Earlier this month militant group Boko Haram killed at least 60 people in Rann after it was abandoned by the military, Amnesty International and security sources said.

That attack came two weeks after Boko Haram overran the town, driving out Nigerian soldiers and signalling the group’s re-emergence as a force capable of capturing army bases.

Last month Cameroon was criticised by the UN refugee agency for sending 9,000 people back to Rann and refusing them asylum, breaching the international principle of “non-refoulement” of refugees.

The UN humanitarian report referred to Rann residents who sought sanctuary in Cameroon as “internally displaced people” rather than “refugees”, despite them crossing an international border.

It said humanitarian aid workers could not return to Rann since January 17. On March 1 last year, three aid workers were kidnapped in Rann and two were subsequently executed.

The return to Rann came on the day Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari was declared to have won a second term. His main rival plans a fraud challenge after a vote marred by delays and violence.

Buhari promised to improve security, having made a similar promise in his first presidential election campaign in 2015.