Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Chad: At least 65 killed in Sudan militia raid

Source: CNN.

N'DJAMENA, Chad (Reuters) -- At least 65 people were killed in a cross-border raid by Sudanese Janjaweed militia who torched two villages in eastern Chad, driving up to 8,000 civilians from their homes, Chadian authorities said Tuesday.

Sudan denied any role in the weekend attacks.

Chad's government said its forces killed 25 of the raiders, some mounted on camels and horses, others in vehicles, who destroyed the villages of Tiero and Marena on Saturday in the Wadi-Fira region of the eastern border with Sudan.

"Chadian military authorities reported at least 65 dead just in the village of Tiero," Ron Redmond, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, in a briefing on the attacks.

Early reports indicated at least 70 wounded, half of them seriously. The death toll was expected to rise as casualty figures from the second village attacked became available.

Chadian Communication Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said the raiders, whom he identified as Sudanese Janjaweed militia, burned down the two villages, forcing their inhabitants to flee.

"Between 6,000 and 8,000 people are out in the open, without shelter and deprived of everything," he said, adding that government forces had pushed back the attackers.

The raids appeared to be the latest spillover of violence from Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003 in a war between rebels and Sudanese government forces and their militia allies.

Chad President Idriss Deby, who also faces an insurgency in the east, frequently accuses Sudan of sending the Janjaweed -- feared mounted raiders whose name in Arabic means "devils on horseback" -- across the border to kill and plunder.

But Khartoum denied any responsibility for the latest raid.

"I have not heard anything about this incident. The Sudanese government played no role in this whatsoever," Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig told Reuters in Khartoum, Sudan.

The UNHCR's Redmond said there were reports of "corpses along roadsides" after the raids. He added testimony so far from victims indicated the assault was led by Janjaweed militia.

"Survivors interviewed by UNHCR said their villages were surrounded by men on horseback and camelback, as well as many motor vehicles, some of which were equipped with heavy weaponry. The assailants began to fire at random in the villages and then began pursuing the fleeing population," he said.

At least 2,000 people, mostly women and children, who fled the attacks reached the Goz Amir refugee camp near Koukou, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) west of the two villages, according to UNHCR.

"They say many people are still hiding in the bush, fearful their assailants might still be in the area," Redmond said.

The Janjaweed attackers fled toward the Sudanese border.

Goz Amir camp is already home to more than 19,000 Sudanese refugees from neighboring Darfur.

Sudan has refused to allow the deployment of a strong U.N. force in Darfur to bolster an over-stretched African Union peacekeeping contingent already there.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended in January sending up to 11,000 peacekeeping soldiers and police to Chad and Central African Republic to secure their porous borders with Darfur and protect civilians and refugees.

But Chad has said it only wants a civil protection force of police and gendarmes in the east.

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