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Violence Spills from Darfur into Chad

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

In Ethiopia today, negotiators reached a deal in principle for a new peacekeeping force for Sudan's Darfur region. It could number 27,000 troops, including the African Union soldiers that are already there. Sudan would still have to agree to allow this force into the region, something it's refused in the past.

The violence that has plagued Darfur is spilling over to neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. Aid workers say hundreds of Chadians have been killed in the last 10 days. They were attacked by Arab gunmen, the militias known as Janjaweed.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is just back from Chad. He went to a hospital and town there asking people about these latest attacks.

Mr. NICHOLAS KRISTOF (Columnist, New York Times): They described exactly the same kind of attacks that I've seen in Darfur itself. You've got a large group of gunmen - maybe 100, maybe 200 - arriving on horses, on camels, and sometimes in these large vehicles with heavy machine guns mounted. And they start shooting. There's a particular effort to kill men, but also some women and children. And then they burn all the huts.

There's been a level of kind of really horrific violence in the latest attacks, including, you know, a man with eyes gouged out by the Janjaweed, old people burned alive in their huts. I mean there's - even if you've seen a lot of these attacks in Sudan and in Chad as well, there's just a level of brutality to these latest attacks that just really takes you aback and stuns you.

BLOCK: You write that some of the victims told you what the attackers said to them as they were carrying out these attacks.

Mr. KRISTOF: Yeah. And it's the same kind of racial epithets that you hear all over Darfur. People are called insults against blacks and they're told that, you know, you blacks have no right to live in this land. You blacks are like monkeys. This is our land, Arab land. The slogans are exactly the same over a broad area of Chad and they're also exactly the same as those that occurred in Darfur, itself.

BLOCK: Are the Janjaweed coming from Sudan, crossing the border, or are they from Chad or both?

Mr. KRISTOF: Well, Sudan denies it, but the people themselves - the victims -say that they recognize a few of the attackers as local Chadians, but that most of the people wear Sudanese military uniforms, in effect. And my very strong impression certainly is that by and large these are the same gangs of Janjaweed that have been attacking all over Darfur and that now they've been instructed to cross over into Chad. They've taken on some local people to continue their rampages in Chad.

BLOCK: And if that's the case, what would the motivation be to do that?

Mr. KRISTOF: I think the motivation is to destabilize Chad and probably to overthrow the government of Chad. There is a pretty close parallel to what Sudan did to Uganda in the past. That Sudan sponsored a proxy army, which engaged in absolutely brutal atrocities in northern Uganda and now Sudan seems to be doing the same thing to Chad.

BLOCK: Nick you've made a lot of trips to the region, have really spent a lot of time focusing on what's going on in Darfur and now writing about what's happening across the border in Chad, how did things seem different to you this time?

Mr. KRISTOF: One of the constraints I find as a journalist is that you want to write about what is new and what is different. And for three years now I find myself writing about the same thing. And the only real news is that it ends up covering a larger and larger area and that because of the indifference of the world it goes on and on.

I talked to one young woman on this trip, who initially was targeted in March and she was gang-raped by the Janjaweed, at that time, and her 10-year-old sister was raped and then killed. This young woman - Hilema(ph) - then fled further inland into Chad where she thought she was going to be safe.

But now the Janjaweed have followed her even into that area and last month she was seized again and gang-raped again. You just have the feeling that this is going to go on and, you know, maybe topple all of Chad and all of Central African Republic until finally the world eventually does confront this kind of thing.

BLOCK: Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, thanks very much.

Mr. KRISTOF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.