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Victims recount janjaweed attacks

ADRE, Chad—Since 2003, Sudan's Arab janjaweed militias have terrorized blacks in the Darfur region by burning villages, stealing cattle and livestock and indiscriminately shooting civilians.

In recent months, they've exported that campaign of terror to black villages in neighboring Chad, where victims describe attacks virtually identical to those in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has denied that it still supports the militias, but Chadians' accounts in interviews with Knight Ridder suggest that the janjaweed remain well armed and the scope of their attacks is widening.

"They surrounded the village, they took all our animals and our food and they left nothing," said Gamar Souleymana, 30, describing a janjaweed attack last month near the town of Goungour, about 25 miles south of Adre.

Two people died in the raid, said Souleymana, who had his right leg amputated at the knee in Adre's hospital.

Like many of Darfur's victims, Souleymana belongs to the Masalit tribe, members of whom live on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border. Souleymana, who wore a dull, expressionless gaze, said he thought the janjaweed were crossing into Chad to continue what they started in Darfur.

"In Sudan there aren't any animals left for them," he said. "That's why we see them in the border areas all the time."

Twenty-year-old Abdoul Kassim, who lost both his legs in an attack near Goungour in February, said he knew the janjaweed were coming when he heard dozens of camels and horses rushing toward their village in the middle of the night.

Some of the militiamen had two automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, Kassim said. There were so many of them, he said, that the few villagers who kept weapons in their huts in case of an attack didn't bother trying to defend themselves.

Kassim lost all of his 32 head of sheep in the raid. Most of his fellow villagers lost theirs as well, he said.

The janjaweed appear to be making something of a sport out of their attacks. Khamis Zakaria, 75, said two militiamen on camels had approached him one morning in early March, when he was alone gathering water from a stream, with nothing of value besides his donkey.

"They said, `Stop. Do you know who we are?'" said Zakaria, a frail man whose ribcage poked through his T-shirt. "I didn't stop, and they fired two bullets at me."

One pierced his left wrist, the other his right thigh, which is now in a cast. The donkey ran off, and the janjaweed left empty-handed.

"Everyone in this area is scared of them," Zakaria said. "You don't know when they are coming, or what they will do."

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): SUDAN-CHAD

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