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Chadian villages attacked and burned, many dead and hundreds flee

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Chadian villages attacked and burned, many dead and hundreds flee

9 November 2006 Also available in:

Thursday, 9 November 2006

GOZ BEIDA, Chad - Several remote villages in south - eastern Chad near the border with Sudan's Darfur region have been attacked, looted and burned over the past week by armed men on horseback, leaving many dead and forcing hundreds to flee their homes. Initial reports received by UNHCR staff in the region indicate more than 200 people may have been killed.

After receiving reports of several brutal attacks in the region, a UNHCR team travelled on Wednesday to the Kerfi area, 40 kms south of UNHCR's field office in the town of Goz Beida. Local residents told the UNHCR team that the attacks began on Saturday (Nov. 4) and have so far affected the villages of Bandicao, Badia, Neweya, Kerfi, Agourtoulou, Abougsoul and Djorlo. There are also reports that Tamadjour and Loubitegue villages were attacked on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people who fled some 10 villages in the region arrived on Wednesday in Koukou Angarana and in a nearby camp for internally displaced people at Habile. More displaced are arriving as they emerge from hiding in the bush. Habile already hosts 3,500 Chadians displaced in violence since late last year. UNHCR is also checking reports of new arrivals around Djabal refugee camp in Goz Beida, the main town in south - eastern Chad.

In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called for urgent action and international support to halt the growing violence.

"We are deeply alarmed at the brutality in eastern Chad, which is already struggling to cope with more than 218,000 Sudanese refugees from neighbouring Darfur," said Guterres. "We have warned for months that the Darfur conflict threatens to destabilise the entire region and we support calls for an international presence in eastern Chad and stronger Chadian efforts to maintain security in the area."

In August, UN Security Council Resolution 1706 called for the deployment of a UN multi - dimensional presence to Chad and the Central African Republic.

The UN refugee agency is concerned the deteriorating security situation in the east may affect its humanitarian operation.

UNHCR teams in south - eastern Chad are still gathering information, but initial reports indicate that as many as 220 people have been killed in this week's string of attacks, with dozens wounded. Most of the wounded are still in and around their villages because they have no transportation to bring them to the closest health centres in Kerfi village and Goz Beida.

The head of UNHCR's office in N'Djamena, Chad's capital, travelled to the region today along with other UNHCR and UN agency staff and Chadian officials. They are visiting Goz Beida and Koukou to assess the needs of the newly displaced.

A UNHCR team which travelled to the village of Djorlo on Wednesday found much of the village still smouldering after being attacked and burned by some 200 men on horseback on Tuesday morning.

Survivors told UNHCR that neighbouring Arab tribes attacked Djorlo, killing 36 and wounding 22 people of the village of 800 inhabitants. They said some of the attackers positioned themselves in trees to shoot the villagers. The wounded had to wait until the following afternoon to be transported by ambulance to Goz Beida hospital, while the dead were buried in four mass graves.

UNHCR staffers said they found the villagers in a state of shock, with men and young boys wandering amid the destruction armed with bows and arrows, and a few swords. They tried to salvage what they could from the ashes and rubble.

In the past year, an estimated 63,000 Chadians have been displaced by inter - ethnic violence in eastern Chad.

The UN refugee agency cares for 15,000 refugees from Darfur in Djabal camp, near Goz Beida, as well as for 18,000 refugees in Goz Amir camp, near Koukou. In total, UNHCR and its partners assist 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad.