Entire Darfur village of 55,000 flees after raids by Janjaweed gunmen
|The Daily Telegraph, 04 Février 2006|
Exhausted refugees were building ramshackle shelters in a dry river bed yesterday after 55,000 people fled a raid mounted by the Janjaweed militia in the Sudanese province of Darfur.
It was the biggest movement of refugees there so far this year. The victims, many of whom have fled attacks twice or even three times before, are camped around the town of Menawashi in southern Darfur.
They abandoned the nearby town of Mershing after two attacks from the pro-regime militia in the space of eight hours last Tuesday.
The flight took place as President Omar al-Bashir was assuring 53 African leaders gathered for a summit in Khartoum of his desire for peace in Darfur.
Evidence suggests that Sudan's security forces colluded with the Arab raiders.
The first assault took place around noon. Abdul Majid Hassan, 28, was herding cattle with his brother, Tibin, 30, when five Arab gunmen approached on horseback.
"They said, 'Give us your cattle,' " Mr Hassan said. "I told Tibin, 'Give them our cattle to save our lives.' But my brother refused. The Janjaweed raised their guns and I ran."
As he fled, Mr Hassan heard a burst of automatic gunfire. He turned to see that his brother had been shot.
"I went back and found him lying on the ground. There was a bullet in his back. He said, 'I know I am dying. I ask one thing, please take care of my family.' "
About 400 Janjaweed gunmen raided a refugee camp in Mershing, riding among the shelters, beating up or firing on anyone who crossed their path. They returned about eight hours later, attacking the town and looting the market.
Mershing's entire population of 55,000 fled the next morning to Menawashi, 10 miles away. Panic-stricken refugees stampeded, trampling to death about 13 infants. Another 220 children disappeared during the flight.
The surviving members of Tibin Hassan's family had been forced to flee once before when the Janjaweed destroyed their home village in 2004.
Keltoum Adam Ibrahim, 25, was also fleeing with her five terrified children for the second time. "I went to Mershing because I thought the government is there, the police are there, they will protect us," she said. "Now I don't trust them. I saw the police sitting and eating with the Janjaweed before they attacked us."
All the refugees in Menawashi are black Africans, and the Arab-dominated regime views them with deep suspicion.
Evidence suggests that the Janjaweed were unleashed to clear the black Africans from a strategically vital road. Paramilitary police were seen talking to Arab gunmen.
Some 1.8 million people have fled their homes in Darfur, with the death toll standing at about 300,000.