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Lack of Security Hinders Refugee Efforts in Chad


In southeastern Chad, efforts continue to locate villagers driven into hiding by attacks Saturday that left 65 people dead. U.N. officials believe many people, fearing more attacks, are still in hiding. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

The top U.N. aid official in Chad, Kingsley Amaning, says hundreds of people are still unaccounted for after the attack on the southeastern villages of Marena and Tiero. He says the lack of security makes the search for them especially difficult.

"The humanitarians are all over the area surrounding the two vilages, looking for those who have disappeared," Amaning says. "Hopefully they may have sought refuge in the bush and then they will be assisted and brought back."

Amaning says after what has happened, he expects many people will not want to return to their villages.

"It will be very difficult for us to persuade those villagers to go back and be assisted in their villages," Amaning says. "We therefore have to deal with, unfortunately, an increasing number of displaced persons in the area."

The U.N. refugee agency reported Tuesday that the attackers, who came by vehicle, horse and camel, were Sudanese Janjaweed militiamen who surrounded the villages and began firing.

Amaning says it is becoming more difficult to find secure places to help Chadians and Sudanese who have been displaced by mounting violence in the region.

"We thought the area of Marena and Tiero, where we had a few soldiers some time ago, would be one of the areas we were going to secure for the displaced persons," Amaning says. "Like I said, there were more than three-thousand of them there. We were considering providing them with more permanent and durable services. That area has now become insecure."

Alex Vines, with London-based analyst group Chatham House, says events like this recent attack are the reason the United Nations has been pushing for a peacekeeping operation inside Chad. The Chadian government has so far refused to permit it.

"The U.N. Security Council last month voted to send a U.N. peacekeeping mission to Chad to protect civilians and guard the border, but at the moment there is a stalemate," Vines says. "I guess incidents like this will raise the issue back in the Security Council and the issue of Chad will become prominent again in discussion."

Vines says there has also been a call for more aid relief for Chad as conflict has increased the nation's humanitarian needs.

The United Nations estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in Chad, including those from Sudan, Central African Republic as well as internally displaced Chadians.