The United Nations (UN) on Saturday announced a suspension of humanitarian air services in the northeast following the latest attack on one of its helicopters in Borno.
Tribune Online reports that a United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) chopper was hit by bullets on Thursday as insurgents tried to infiltrate Damasak town, resulting in a gun battle with troops.
In a statement on Saturday, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said, “although we are still establishing the facts surrounding the incident, we know that one of the helicopters sustained bullet holes to the body of the aircraft during its approach to Damasak.
“The helicopter was able to turn around and safely return to Maiduguri. Fortunately, the crew members were not hurt, and there were no passengers on board.
“However, recognising the seriousness of the incident, and in consultation with UNDSS and UNHAS/WFP, I am putting in place, with immediate effect, a pause on UNHAS rotary operations in the northeast, in order to allow us to engage with government partners and conduct new risk assessments for each helicopter location to ensure that we have taken all the possible mitigation measures.
“The suspension is for an initial period of one week, during which we will review the situation,” said Kallon.
“During this period, life-saving medical and security evacuations will be considered on a case-by-case basis with the authorisation of the coordinator.”
UNHAS has since 2018 served 16 countries, flying to 323 regular destinations, ferrying a total 386,330 passengers.
It is managed by the World Food Programme to offer safe, reliable, cost-efficient and effective passenger and light cargo transport for the humanitarian community into and from areas of crisis and intervention.
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