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Armed Groups Target Aid Workers In Eastern Chad

Armed Groups Continue To Target Aid Workers In Eastern Chad, UN Agency Reports

New York, Oct 6 2006 11:00AM

The security situation throughout eastern Chad, where 213,000 Sudanese have sought shelter from the fighting in Darfur, remains extremely volatile as unidentified armed groups continue to target humanitarian workers and steal their vehicles, the United Nations refugee agency warned today.

“This succession of incidents brings to a staggering total of 40 the number of cars that have been stolen from humanitarian agencies operating in eastern Chad in less than one year,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneoa of the three most recent thefts in the last 10 days.

“The precarious security situation also has a direct impact on the work of humanitarian actors in safely accessing some refugee camps. We need to drive in convoys with armed escorts provided by the Chadian government to six of the 12 refugee camps,” she said, in the agency’s latest warning. In August, UNHCR voiced serious concern after three aid workers were attacked with rifle butts by seven men wearing military uniforms.

Unsuccessful attempts were also made in recent days to steal two other vehicles. In one of the incidents, armed men wearing military uniforms stormed the premises of a humanitarian agency and held all staff at gunpoint while attempting to steal the agency’s pick-up truck.

When this failed, they proceeded to another agency’s compound and repeated the same scenario, taking humanitarian staff hostage. Warned of the situation, the Chadian gendarmerie intervened by firing in the air, causing the assailants to flee. All hostages were unharmed.

One concrete measure to provide greater security was a memorandum of understanding signed last month between the Government and UNHCR, under which 75 more Chadian gendarmes will be posted among the Agency’s five operational hubs serving the 12 refugee camps. They will be joining over 200 gendarmes already deployed throughout eastern Chad to ensure a 5 kilometre security perimeter around each of the camps.

The gendarmes will undergo training sessions on international law and humanitarian assistance organized by UNHCR and its partners.

Beyond the 213,000 Sudanese whom UNHCR and its partner agencies are currently assisting, there are tens of thousands of Chadian who have been displaced. There are also some 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in three camps in southern Chad.


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