Civilians Flee From Continuing Attacks in Darfur

Caritas Reports Increase in Refugees

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ROME, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Fighting has broken out in the Taaisha area of southern Darfur, in Sudan's troubled west, according to refugees fleeing the region.



Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic group that is working in the area, reported that at least 5,000 people have been driven from their homes. They are now awaiting food, water and permanent shelter.

Thousands have sought refuge in the Hasaba, Bashom and Burga camps. They are sitting under trees to shield them from the burning sun. Most of them fled leaving their belongings behind.

One woman said that the "Janjaweed," the Arab militias active in the area, arrived on horses and camels, followed by soldiers. "They started shooting at us and looted everything in the village," she told Vatican-based Caritas. Inhabitants reported that at least 300 soldiers took part in the attacks.

Since Caritas began its work in the area, the number of internally displaced people, IDPs, has exploded. "There are still ongoing attacks directed at innocent civilians and the number of IDPs keeps increasing," Caritas warned in a statement.

Caritas staff on the ground heard gunshots nearby when fighting broke out last Saturday. Then hundreds of thousands of people started moving toward established camps in the area.

At the moment, there is no shelter, water, sanitation, medical care or food available for the new arrivals.

Over the past week Caritas and its partner organization ACT have been distributing sheeting and jerry cans to new arrivals already registered. However, the new influx is putting huge pressure on getting aid out to the people.

Since February 2003, fighting between popular self-defense groups and the Khartoum government has left up to 50,000 dead and 2 million displaced.