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Nearly 200,000 refugees cross the border to flee Arab militias


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Darfur violence spills into neighboring Chad

Nearly 200,000 refugees cross the border to flee Arab militias

By Ann Curry

NBC News

Updated: 7:29 p.m. ET March 13, 2006

ON THE BORDER BETWEEN CHAD AND SUDAN - Home for Jamaya is under a tree. Two months ago, Arab militias called Janjaweed roared into her village on horseback, shouting, “You are black slaves. Black men, we want to kill you.”

She and her three children haven't seen her husband since.

Jamaya walked barefoot, leading her children on a donkey, for nearly 40 miles, before reaching a besieged refugee camp in Chad.

“People are killed,” says Marcus Prior, with the United Nation's World Food Program. “Their animals are looted. Their food stocks are burnt. They're chased from their village. It's desperate, desperate stuff.”

In fact, this is the second time Jamaya had to run.

She's one of the 200,000 people from Darfur in Western Sudan who've fled to Chad since 2003, to escape attacks by the Janjaweed — Arab militias the U.S. says are armed by the Sudanese government.

The Bush administration calls the killings in Darfur genocide, and now the violence is taking a more dangerous turn and crossing the border. The Janjaweed are accused of burning village after village in neighboring Chad. The people of Chad are now being killed and raped. The number displaced is estimated in the tens of thousands.

As you cross the border from Darfur into Chad, there are no markers and no one to stop you. It is easy for the violence in Darfur to bleed into Chad along a border that is nearly 400 miles long.

Col. Mohammed Samalah is eager to fight what he calls “this disease” of ethnic cleansing. Now, Chad, one of the world's poorest countries, is militarizing its border — just as Sudan is on the other side.

With a powder keg on his hands, Chad's President Idriss Deby, who has been blamed for encouraging the violence by supporting Sudanese rebels, now tells NBC News — in a rare and exclusive interview — his country is desperate for outside help.

“I send out a call to President Bush and the international community to act quickly,” Deby says. “I support international military intervention. If nothing is done, we will be watching a worse human tragedy than we witnessed in Rwanda.”

But a proposal to send in U.N. peacekeepers is being resisted strongly by the Sudanese government.

Jamaya is unsure where her children will be safe.

“You are saying it's very difficult,” she says, “And you are asking God to help you.”

What else can she do, she says, but have faith that help will come.

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

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