Refugees suffer after being told to go home

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The Independent Online

Birak in eastern Chad is real frontier territory. A dusty scattering of rough brick houses and thatched huts with donkeys and goats wandering around the place. Into this empty landscape, the refugees have poured in from nearby Darfur.

Birak in eastern Chad is real frontier territory. A dusty scattering of rough brick houses and thatched huts with donkeys and goats wandering around the place. Into this empty landscape, the refugees have poured in from nearby Darfur.

They ran from the Janjaweed - the horsemen who come to burn their villages and kill their families - and, just one week before the UN Security Council deadline which obliges the Sudanese government to stop the killings, they are still coming here.

Fourteen days ago, in the western Darfur village of Diba, 25-year-old Abdel Moulah Abdallahi had to flee his country for the second time. Four months ago he crossed the border into Chad to escape from a Janjaweed attack that killed his parents and his uncle. A month ago he was persuaded to return home. "The government of Sudan sent envoys to the border to tell us there were no problems and we could return home,'' he said, sitting under a tree in a makeshift encampment. "We trusted them because they are from the state, they are official, so we went back.''

It was the wrong decision. On 9 August, on a rainy morning back in Diba, the Janjaweed returned. "The women started crying - the Janjaweed are coming. We ran into the bush, but the Janjaweed came on horses and camels and shot at us. We ran some more but then the army were there and they shot at us too, this time with machine guns. The Janjaweed took everything, all our animals, and threw hand grenades into our houses.''

This time, Mr Abdallahi lost five brothers. Four are buried in Sudan, and one, badly injured, was carried into Birak where he now lies buried near his brother's dwelling. Mr Abdallahi says he will not go back.

"Back in my country I had everything. Animals, sorghum fields, trees full of mangoes and guavas,'' he said wistfully. "But there is no security there.''

Osman Yayha Khadir tells a similar story about an attack in Gazmoun, a village near Diba.

"Four days ago, I heard the sound of helicopters - the helicopters that belong to the Sudanese army,'' he said. "Everybody knows that when you hear the planes the Janjaweed are coming, so we ran. But the Janjaweed came anyway and fired into the village and stole all our animals. They killed eight people. Some of our people went after them to get our livestock back and the Janjaweed opened fire again.''

As the villagers ran away Mr Khadir lost sight of his wife and three children. Now he is waiting in Birak hoping they will find their way across somehow so they can go together to a refugee camp. The testimonies of refugees also indicate that the Sudanese military is still co-operating with the Janjaweed by bombing villages before an attack and opening fire on anyone who tries to reclaim livestock stolen by the Janjaweed.

* Donations to The Independent's Darfur appeal now total £171,695, the charity, Concern, has reported.

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