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Chad: concerns over increasing violence in east

Briefing notes

Chad: concerns over increasing violence in east

16 May 2008 Also available in:

We are very concerned by escalating violence in eastern Chad including a fatal attack on gendarmes near a refugee camp and increased levels of vehicle hijacking. We also fear that the attack on the Sudanese capital Khartoum by rebels last weekend could further destabilise the security situation in the east and have reduced our activities and staff movements as a precautionary measure.

On Wednesday, were shocked by the latest incident near Touloum refugee camp when two gendarmes providing security for the camp were attacked and killed by three armed men 3 km from the camp. Another two gendarmes were severely wounded in the incident which also left one of the attackers dead and another badly injured. The attackers, local Chadians, were arrested by police. The gendarmes work with the government refugee body CNAR to ensure refugee security.

Wednesday's fatal attack followed two hijacking incidents on Tuesday. Near Touloum camp, three armed men hijacked a vehicle belonging to one of our implementing partners, then drove to Am Nabak refugee camp 45 km south of Iriba where they hijacked a vehicle belonging to a local NGO. Gendarmes from Touloum gave chase and the hijackers finally abandoned the vehicles and escaped.

Over the past three months we have witnessed an escalation in the number of security incidents. On May 1, the head of the Save the Children mission was killed; in April a driver from the same NGO was killed near Farchana, and in February, two CNAR gendarmes were killed in Farchana and Bahai. We have also witnessed increasing attempts to hijack vehicles. NGO compounds were assaulted by armed robbers in Goz Beida and Abéché. Between October 2005 and March 2008 a total of 82 vehicles have been stolen in eastern Chad, out of which only 23 have been recovered.

UNHCR and the humanitarian community are working with the Chadian government, EUFOR and MINURCAT to put an end to impunity in eastern Chad. Additional security measures are being put in place. No further details are available.

The attack on Khartoum by rebels could trigger additional security problems in eastern Chad and have an impact on the humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced people in the region. As a precautionary measure, we have restricted movements of staff and are carrying out only essential tasks such as follow-up on protection cases, food and water distribution and health assistance. On Sunday 11 May, an Antonov plane was seen flying over Oure Cassoni refugee camp near Bahai, scaring refugees. The camp hosts 28,000 refugees and is located 6 km from the volatile Chad-Sudan border.

Meanwhile, in the Guéréda area, around 8,000 of the estimated 13,500 Sudanese refugees who arrived in eastern Chad in February and March are still camping in the open at Birak, about 70 km east of Guéréda close to border with Sudan. Many of the women and children among them are waiting to be transferred to Mile refugee camp but we had to postpone their relocation two weeks ago because of the extremely volatile security situation at the border. In March, we relocated 5,287 new arrivals from Birak area to Kounoungou refugee camp near Guéréda which has now reached its maximum capacity of 19,000 refugees. In April we transferred only about 200 refugees to Mile refugee camp.

UNHCR and its partners take care of some 60,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region in three camps in the Iriba region - 23,500 in Touloum camp about 20km south of Iriba; 18,500 in Iridimi camp and 16,705 refugees in Am Nabak camp. Overall, there are 250,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad and some 180,000 internally displaced Chadians.