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Sudanese Refugees Continue to Flee Attacks in West Darfur


The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports more Sudanese refugees have arrived in eastern Chad, following renewed attacks on Jebel Moun in West Darfur. The UNHCR says it is difficult to estimate how many people have crossed, but it notes the refugees are mostly women, children and the elderly. Lisa Schlein reports from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The U.N. refugee agency says it is difficult to know how many refugees have crossed from West Darfur into eastern Chad in recent days because they are scattered in several villages.

An estimated 10,000 refugees fled to Chad following the Sudanese government's February 8 bombardment of several villages in West Darfur.

UNHCR Spokesman, William Spindler, says more people have been fleeing to eastern Chad since Friday, when armed militiamen burned a number of villages.

"The latest arrivals are mainly women, children and elderly people and they are extremely traumatized," he said. "Our team noticed that refugees who were right at the border a week ago have moved further to safer areas into Chad, away from the volatile border. Even though some refugees have briefly gone to their homes over the border to collect a few belongings, they said they do not want to return to Darfur at this stage."

Spindler says new arrivals in the Chadian towns of Birak and Seinat report bombardments and attacks have taken place near camps for internally displaced people and villages in Darfur.

He says wounded people who have arrived in Chad are transported to health centers in Birak. He says refugees recount tales of cruelty, and aid workers have reported several cases of sexual violence and abuse by militiamen against girls and women.

"The vast majority of the new refugees in Chad had already been displaced once or twice in West Darfur since 2003 and are very traumatized by the recent attacks," he added. "All of them fear going back to Darfur and have asked to be moved further inland to Chad, as they do not feel safe near the border. Furthermore, refugees are suffering from exposure to the harsh weather, living in the open, with cold winds affecting especially children and the elderly. Two refugee women and two children died last night because of the cold temperatures. They were among the latest arrivals from Jebel Moun."

Meanwhile, the UNHCR reports a new campsite has been opened in West Darfur to accommodate up to 6,000 internally displaced persons.

It is located about two kilometers from El Geneina, the capital city of West Darfur State.

Spindler says the first group of about 500 people will arrive at the new site on Wednesday. They were displaced from Armankul village following violence in the area two weeks ago.

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