There’s growing insecurity in eastern Chad, where thousands of refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region have sought safe haven. The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, says yesterday a large armed group took over the refugee camp at Goz Amer, which is located about 90 kilometers from the Sudan border. The camp is home to nearly 18,000 refugees. The attack, which left several people dead, took place while food was being distributed.
Matthew Conway is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Abeche in eastern Chad, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.
“It appears that sometime in mid-afternoon Monday, armed elements entered the Goz Amer refugee camp in southeastern Chad and occupied the camp and killed several of the Chadian officers who were watching over the camp. In cooperation with UNHCR, the government of Chad has provided gendarmes, or security officers, to ensure the security and protection of refugees in eastern Chad. It appears that a combat ensued between these gendarmes and armed elements. We’re not sure who they are exactly…. We are trying to determine if they have fully left the camp. Their presence seems to have been reduced at the moment."
The UNHCR staff was prevented from moving about the Goz Amer camp and the agency’s staff in a nearby town was also confined to their compound by the armed men, who confiscated radios and satellite phones from UNHCR offices. While there’s no official confirmation about the identity of the armed group, townspeople say the gunmen told them they were Chadian rebels.