Four dead in ambush of World Food Programme convoy in Nigeria

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Four people were killed when a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) aid convoy was ambushed in northeast Nigeria, a WFP spokeswoman said on Sunday, in the latest attack in the region as the conflict with Boko Haram nears its ninth year.

Attacks on aid workers are relatively rare in the conflict with the Islamist insurgency, compared with assaults on the military and civilians in Nigeria's northeast.

The years of fighting have spawned what the United Nations calls one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with 8.5 million people in need of life-saving assistance.

"WFP can confirm that a convoy escorted by the Nigerian military including WFP-hired trucks was the subject of an attack by armed groups 35 km southwest of Ngala in Borno State on Saturday," she said in an emailed statement.

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"Four people, including the driver of a WFP-hired truck and a driver's assistant, were killed in the incident," the statement said, adding that "WFP is working with the authorities to determine the whereabouts of the trucks."

The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the driver and assistant were WFP staff, or give details about the other two people killed.

A military spokesman declined to comment.

Last year, the United Nations suspended aid deliveries in Nigeria's northeastern state of Borno, the epicenter of the conflict, after a humanitarian convoy was attacked, leaving two aid workers injured.

Last week, the Nigerian government approved the release of $1 billion from the country's excess oil account to the government to help fight the Boko Haram insurgency, despite a two-year narrative that Boko Haram has been all but defeated.

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Nigeria floating slum, school
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A young boy swims in through dirty water of Makoko slum on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: People travel by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: People travel by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: People travel by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A wide view of Makoko city at nightfall on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: People travel by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A wooden building where people watch soccer match on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: Christians wait religious ceremony at Church of God which is on sand and floating at same time on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A man poses as canoes float past in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: People travel by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A wide view of Makoko city at daytime on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A woman travels by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A view of floating school in Makoko city at daytime on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A man works in his hair salon at night on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: Young residents rest at night under a bulb beside their shop, that sells phone accesories and recharge cards on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A wide view of Makoko city at nightfall on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 4: Christians wait religious ceremony at Church of God which is on sand and floating at same time on May 4, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: A wide view of Makoko city at nightfall on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 4: A woman sells banana at her canoe on May 4, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - MAY 8: People work at boat-making workshops on April 30, 2014 in Lagos, Negeria. Makoko is slum neighborhood located in Nigeria, its population considered to be thousands moreover the area was not officially counted. Makoko slum is seldom visited by anyone from outside. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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There are other signs the government and military may be abandoning that narrative.

Nigeria's long-term plan is now to corral civilians inside fortified garrison towns - effectively ceding the countryside to Boko Haram.

Earlier this month, Nigeria replaced the military commander of the campaign against Boko Haram after half a year in the post. Military sources told Reuters that came after a series of "embarrassing" attacks by the Islamists.

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