The UNHCR team reported Friday that many of the 4,000 to 5,000 residents of the camp had returned from the nearby Jebel Moon mountains and surrounding countryside where they initially fled as the horsemen swooped into the camp, killing residents and burning down their makeshift shelters, on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the survivors, after entering the camp, the 250-300 armed Arab men divided into three groups: one peeled off to steal the cattle; a second set about chasing and killing people in the camp; and a third set fire to the flimsy shelters in which the displaced people have been living since abandoning their villages in the area because of similar attacks.
In all, 17 of the displaced people living in the camp were killed, along with 17 more people from nearby villages who were visiting the camp because Wednesday was market day. All 34 victims were male. The UNHCR team witnessed the burial of one of the 34 dead and said the man appeared to have had his arms bound before he was killed. Witnesses in the camp said he had been tied up and dragged to his death behind a horse.
The attack, the first armed assault on a camp for internally displaced people in Darfur, follows a series of worrisome security incidents throughout the region. UNHCR is concerned that the deterioration in security is preventing the provision of vital aid to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Darfur and could prompt them to flee again – possibly to neighbouring Chad, which is already struggling to cope with more than 200,000 refugees from Sudan.
UNHCR, which carries out protection monitoring in West Darfur, has three offices in the region, with five more planned. There are an estimated 2 million internally displaced people in Darfur, including 715,700 in West Darfur; 770,800 in South Darfur, and 480,000 in North Darfur.