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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
23 January 2006

CHAD: UN scales back in east after local officals kidnapped

NDJAMENA, 23 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Nearly 200 aid workers pulled out of two humanitarian bases in eastern Chad at the weekend after unknown armed men kidnapped government officials and two aid groups had jeeps stolen, the UN refugee agency said.

The armed men stormed a meeting in the town of Guereda as UN officials were giving local authorities an update on the 200,000 Sudanese refugees currently sheltering in 12 camps in Chad. They abducted five people including the top government official of Guereda and the head of the local branch of the military police.

Tensions have been on the rise in eastern Chad for the last few months after a wave of defections from the army, a rebel attack on the town of Adre and accusations by President Idriss Deby that neighbouring Sudan is backing an insurgency.

Government spokesman Moussa Hourmadji Doumgor said on Monday that Chadian authorities did not know who was behind the latest attack, and that the kidnappers had given no ransom note.

"We've had no contact from them at the moment, but the Chadian army is fanning out in the area to try and find them," Doumgor told IRIN.

Ginette le Breton, UNHCR spokesperson in Chad, said some 100 armed men had swarmed into Guereda on Friday. No one was injured at the site of the kidnapping but five residents elsewhere in the town were taken to hospital with gun-shot wounds, she said.

Aid officials said there would be a 20-percent reduction in humanitarian staff in the area, with 90 people from the UN and other aid agencies being evacuated from Guereda, and a further 80 from nearby Iriba. All have relocated to the regional headquarters in Abeche.

"The situation is serious enough at this stage, especially when taking into account the number of security incidents in the past days," said Claire Bourgeois, the deputy representative for UNHCR in Chad, adding that the staff pullout was temporary.

On top of the kidnapping, two international NGOs have had vehicles stolen recently, one of which was later spotted across the border in Sudan. Robberies have also occurred in the area.

Some 75,000 refugees live in the five camps covered by the Guereda and Iriba staff but UNHCR officials were quick to point out that essential health, nutrition and sanitary services would not be affected.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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