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Fighting in Western Sudan Spreads to Neighboring Chad

April 11, 2007 at 5:25 PM EDT
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JONATHAN MILLER, ITV News Correspondent: First, the Russian-built Hind attack helicopter swings in, the Sudanese military provided top cover for pickups piled high with Arab militiaman armed by Khartoum. Then comes the cavalry.

These are extremely rare pictures, the Janjaweed in action, filmed within the past couple of months just inside Sudan on the volatile western border with Chad. The contagion of cleansing of African farmers by Arab nomads has spread into Chad.

This year’s killing season has opened with what the U.N. has described as an apocalyptic attack by the horsemen. No video footage, but these pictures show the remote villages in southeastern Chad razed to the ground 10 days ago, up to 400 dead, the U.N. says, in brutal cross-border attacks.

Nine thousand survivors from 31 villages now being fed by the U.N. For many, it’s not the first time they’ve been forced to flee.

Here, villagers attempting to salvage what wasn’t destroyed by the raiders. Some drifting back home. This is the African village of Tiero, that sits next to Wadi, running east towards Darfur. We filmed here less than a year ago. Tiero was one of the villages burned to the ground.

These people now displaced, like their 2.5 million cousins in Darfur just over the frontier, the violence reaching ever further west into Chad.

The Sudanese Janjaweed and their nomadic Arab allies on the Chadian side have reached as far as 100 kilometers in now. They leave a charred wasteland of abandoned villages in their wake. The U.N. says that, after the latest raids, decomposing corpses also litter the ground, together with rotting carcasses of animals.

Mustafa Bako is the head man of one of the villages burned down last month. “They attacked on horseback at 5 a.m.,” he says. “The Janjaweed gave weapons to all the local tribes,” he says. “They made a pact with them and killed us and they chased us.”

Thirteen villages were burned down in one day alone. “They want to wipe us out,” he says, “so the Arabs of Sudan and Chad can have the land for themselves. The Janjaweed don’t want any more blacks.”

The small hospital in Goshbada, a district capital in southeastern Chad, which itself has been attacked. These children, wounded by grenades, one of which landed in a school playground inside the refugee camp. About 80 wounded people are thought to have survived what is now being referred to in aid agency circles as “the massacre” 10 days ago. Most are now in this hospital.

SUDAN RESIDENT (through translator): We don’t know where to expect an attack. They come at night. They menace and attack the local people, and then they’re gone.

The Chadian army has proved hopelessly unable to protect its own people. Their remit to fend off attacks by rebel groups backed by and based in Sudan. In one attack yesterday, Chad says it routed the rebels, killing 17. Today, Sudan said the 17 were its soldiers killed inside Sudan.

“Our response will be strong,” warned Khartoum. All-out war could happen any time.

And this is the man who could stop it all: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has rebuffed all international demands to allow a joint U.N. and African Union peacekeeping force of 22,000 troops in Darfur and along the border in Chad.

This week, China, the U.S., and today the South African president all pressing the message face to face that the time has finally come for the slaughter to stop. Unprecedented pressure, maybe, but, four years after it started, it’s just getting worse.