Return to Darfur's edge
Atrocities are escalating, as our NBC News team has returned to Darfur's edge - this time we carry body armor. Landing in Goz Beida, Chad today, it is immediately clear that it is much more dangerous than 8 months ago when we were last in the region. First came reports that thousands of Sudanese government troops had amassed from Darfur to back the Arab militia called Janjaweed. And with the end of Ramadan and the rainy season there was wide-spread fear that a mass killing campaign was being planned.
Then came hard evidence this fear is justified -- the UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, has substantiated at least 10 African villages have been attacked. Most are set on fire. Men are being killed, women are gang raped - the attacks are systematic in most cases by black Arabs against black Africans. A new crisis is begging to be stopped.
A top Bush Administration official told me days ago the U.S. government is deeply concerned the killing could even rise to what it was in 2003-04 when it's estimated mostly tribal farmers were targeted and killed in Janjaweed attacks. Millions were set fleeing - many are now living as internally displaced people and as refugees in Chad.
Ironically, the thousands who fled here to Chad are being attacked a second time. Adding to the fragility, rebel groups and the military of both countries line the border amid fear that Sudan will try to back a coup of Chad's government.
But it is the simplicity of the story we are hearing from the wounded that tells the real ugliness here. A 27-year-old man bayoneted in both eyes this past Tuesday lies in a hospital bed in pain and panic about how he is going to care for his wife and two young children. They called him "nuba" - racist slang for black as they pulled out both his eyes.
Photo by Antoine Sanfuentes
It is the racism that fuels this violence that really gets to you. Here I thought going back, experienced in reporting about these kinds of crimes, it would be easier this time. It's not. It breaks your heart. How could it not?
Saturday morning we are going to meet the survivors of these burned villages -- they are amassed, hundreds of them, living under trees with so many stories to tell. As we go to bed tonight we are steeling ourselves to hear what the world will also be shocked to hear: It's still happening.
Ann Curry will be reporting on the Darfur conflict all week. You can see her reports on the Today Show, Nightly News and online at www.Nightly.MSNBC.com and www.Today.MSNBC.com.
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