The U.N. refugee agency says Chadian military authorities report at least 65 people were killed in weekend attacks by Sudanese Janjaweed militia on villages in eastern Chad. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
The attacks took place in the villages of Tiero and Marena, about 45 kilometers east of Koukou in southeastern Chad. The U.N. refugee agency says it does not know how many people are now displaced.
But, preliminary reports by the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies indicate between 2,000 and 3,000 people have fled to the Goz Amir refugee camp near Koukou. The camp is home to more than 19,000 Sudanese refugees who have escaped fighting in Darfur.
U.N. refugee agency spokesman Ron Redmond says the extent of the damage, deaths and injuries in the latest attacks is not yet known. But he says at least 65 people were killed in the village of Tiero and the death toll is expected to rise.
"The testimony, so far, from the victims indicates that the attack was led by "Janjaweed" militia who were repelled by local self-defense militias and some national army soldiers. There were several hours of combat reportedly. Refugees in the Goz Amir camp and residents of Koukou could hear the heavy weaponry and explosions during the fighting. The situation was reported to have been brought under control by Saturday afternoon, with the alleged Janjaweed militia fleeing in the direction of the Sudanese border," he said.
Redmond says survivors have told aid workers that while some of the attackers were on horses and camels, others were in motor vehicles, many of them equipped with heavy weaponry. "The assailants began to fire at random into the villages, and then began pursuing the fleeing population, robbing women of their possessions and shooting the men, many of whom are feared dead. The majority of the population arriving at Goz Amir is comprised of women and children," he said.
Redmond says survivors report many people are still hiding in the bush, fearful their assailants might be in the area.
An estimated 120,000 Chadians are internally displaced. The UNHCR assists many of them, as well as caring for 230,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad. The agency also helps another 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in southern Chad.