The U.N. refugee agency is appealing to the international community to send troops to help protect civilians and refugees in Chad from attacks by armed Arab gunmen. The UNHCR says new attacks against villages in southeastern Chad are reported daily.
The U.N. refugee agency says it is extremely worried that an already volatile situation is continuing to deteriorate. It says tens of thousands of civilians in Chad are living in a state of terror. It says the recent spate of attacks on villages in the area that left more than 220 dead appears to mirror what is going on in the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan.
UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, says the agency fears the inter-communal hostilities are spiraling out of control and could threaten the entire southeastern region of Chad.
"UNHCR urges the international community to quickly mobilize a multi-dimensional presence in Chad to help protect hundreds of thousands of Chadian civilians and Sudanese refugees, as well as aid workers trying to help them," Redmond says. "In August, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706 called for the deployment of a multi-dimensional presence to Chad and the neighboring Central African Republic."
The U.N. refugee agency reports since November 7th, about five-thousand newly displaced Chadians have fled to a site for internally displaced people in Habile. This is 45-kilometers southeast of the town of Goz Beida, where the UNHCR runs camps for tens of thousands of refugees from Darfur.
The UNHCR estimates at least 68-thousand Chadians have been displaced within eastern Chad this year. Spokesman Redmond says at least 20 villages have been attacked in the region south of Goz Beida since November 4.
"Accounts we are hearing from displaced Chadians bear a striking similarity," Redmond says. "The assailants are almost always identified as being of Arab ethnicity, oftentimes known personally by victims as neighbors with who they had lived for generations. They are often well-armed, particularly with Kalashnikovs. They are on horseback, camel back or in trucks; sometimes in military attire, sometimes in civilian dress."
The government of Chad declared a state of emergency Monday and said it was devising a strategy to deal with the increasingly violent situation in the southeastern part of the country.
Redmond says the government is bringing more troops into the region. He notes this is a vast area with many isolated villages. He says it is extremely difficult to police.