The UN refugee agency says the situation following attacks on two villages in eastern Chad March 31st is far worse than originally thought. The UNHCR says janjaweed attacks on Tiero and Marena apparently left hundreds of people dead and widespread destruction.
Matthew Conway, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, has just returned from the villages. From the eastern Chadian town of Abeche, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
?It took us about a week to finally get access to the region because of insecurity. And what we saw was quite frankly shocking. Large villages completely emptied and evidence of very fierce battles that took place. Unfortunately, there were still bodies that had not yet been buried. We came across a couple of them during some of our travels. And it was really a scene of utter destruction and desolation,? he says.
It?s unclear how many people were killed, but estimates range as high as 400. Conway says, ?Unfortunately, I think the numbers were so high and people were in such an urgency to flee that a lot of bodies were not accounted for and were buried in common graves. So, sadly, I don?t know that we?ll ever really know the actual toll, but it is clear that it numbers in the low hundreds.?
UNHCR estimates about 140,000 Chadians have been displaced in the east in recent months, with at least 9,000 being displaced following the attacks late last month on Tiero and Marena. Thousands more are also reported to have fled toward the Sudanese border. A three-week survey begins at the end of the week to get a more precise figure.
UNHCR says Chadians from over 30 villages have arrived at a camp in Habile. ?We?ve expanded the existing Habile site to accommodate the new arrivals. But we?re very concerned that even though there?s sufficient space that much of this land is prone to flooding during the rainy season, which should be arriving in the next month or so. So, we?re going to need to move a lot of these people to other sites that we?re trying to identify with Chadian authorities right now,? says Conway.