The U.N. refugee agency says as many as 400 people were killed in southeastern Chad 10 days ago during cross-border attacks by Sudanese Janjaweed militia. The death toll is far higher than previous estimates by Chadian authorities that at least 65 people died after attacks on March 31. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
The newly revised death toll follows a visit by a group of U.N. agency officials on Sunday to the remote area where the attacks occurred. UNHCR Spokesman, Ron Redmond, says the group describes what they saw as "apocalyptic."
"Hundreds upon hundreds of homes had been burned to the ground. A small fire was still burning Sunday in one section of Tiero," he said. "There was an overwhelming stench from the rotting carcasses of animals that had been hit by stray bullets, consumed by fire or which had died of thirst. There were famished and frightened dogs all around. There were many indications that people had little or no time to flee."
Redmond says people left their belongings, food and animals behind in their haste to leave. He says some people collapsed along the route and were brought to Goz Amir health center for treatment. He says many people died where they fell.
Both Sudan and Chad have blamed each other for a series of cross border raids.
The UNHCR Spokesman says the High Commissioner has been warning of the spread of unrest during the past two years from Darfur to neighboring countries.
"We have seen a dangerous escalation for a long time, not only in Darfur, but in Chad and the Central African Republic," he added. "And, that situation is continuing as evidenced by the tragedy that we just saw in these two villages over the past week."
It says more than 9,000 Chadians, mainly women and children, from 31 villages are at a new camp for internally displaced people. They join another 9,000 who had fled earlier raids in the region.
The UNHCR assists more than 220,000 refugees who have fled the conflict in Darfur and around 120,000 internally displaced Chadians.