‘Our family have been shot’: Wounded refugees stream in from Darfur after violence in Sudan

World

The central patch of Sudan and Chad’s 869-mile border is a dried river bed of wet light sand and large puddles of water.

Large boulders and desert hills mark the Chadian side of the valley. Under many of its thorn trees are new Sudanese refugees, fleeing the brutal ongoing violence in their border town.

The crowds sit there and watch.

Just across the river is the lush greenery of Darfur’s western borderlands and behind a hill, smoke billows and gunfire echo out.

I ask a crowd of mostly teenage girls standing and staring in that direction what the sound is.

“These are the rifles that have been hitting us. Our family are trapped in there and have been shot,” says 16-year-old Yasmin.

Their town Masterai is one of the largest border settlements in the region. Many of them are farmers who have now been forced to cede their land to tribal Arab militias. In 2003, many in Darfur called them the janjaweed – devils on horseback – and in 2023, they simply call them “the Arabs”.

While many wait on the banks for their loved ones to emerge, others have moved deeper into Chad.

Maryam Adam is standing under a tree with her relatives and neighbours when we meet her. She fled with her pregnant daughter and some of the children in her family.

“My sister’s son has been killed and we had to leave him there. He’s 11 years old,” says Maryam.

Her sister is missing.

Chad closed its border with Sudan in the early days of the war in Khartoum. As the army wage a brutal fight with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, the Arab clan militias they were born out of in Darfur have been emboldened in their violence.

“When the war started Chad made the decision to secure the entire border but there are still pathways for civilians to make it through,” says Ali Mohamed, Chad’s chief regional officer stationed in Adre.

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Pregnant woman and baby killed in shooting

In Adre’s Central Hospital, Medicines Sans Frontier (MSF) have set up three tents to treat wounded civilians.

The latest victims of the Mastarei attack are in them, many of them with gunshot wounds.

Read more:
Pregnant woman and baby killed in shooting in Sudan – but husband left unaware
‘They set us on fire’: Harrowing stories inside Chad’s refugee camps

One of them is three-year-old Bilal Yacuub who was hit by a bullet in his hip. One older sister cries over him and another, Yasmin, is one stretcher away with her own bullet wound. They are with their aunt Haja – their mother is still inside.

Not an hour passes before more wounded civilians arrive in the hospital yard in the back of land cruisers.

People come from the corners of the hospital to gather around. They peer over doctors to check if their loved ones are being brought in – reeling from a stark reality that feels all too familiar.

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