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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
New Darfur atrocity revealed
Mohammed was lucky to survive but cannot walk
The brutal conflict in Sudan's Darfur region between two rebel groups and pro-government Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, has seen many atrocities prompting more than a million people to flee their homes.

Trauma nurse Roberta Gately, who works for the International Rescue Committee aid agency, tells BBC News Online about a horrific aspect of the conflict which has not been widely reported - children being burnt alive.

Ten-year-old Mohammed was one of several children from his village thrown into a fire by Janjaweed militiamen a year-and-a-half ago, his mother told me.

His legs were ablaze and his face crackled, but he was lucky - unlike the others.

He was pulled from the flames before the fire claimed him as a victim. His luck, however, stopped there.

For an agonizing year, Mohammed underwent excruciatingly painful treatment and then was discharged to the relative squalor of Kalma refugee camp.

Although his burns have healed, he still has facial scars and scar tissue on his legs.

He can no longer run or play but perhaps his most serious scar will be the traumas he carries about internally.

Seeking Mohammed

This sad and compelling story was reported in the US and a generous benefactor, eager to help Mohammed, asked IRC to locate him.

Since he was last known to be in Kalma camp, the area of my new clinic, I was asked to help in the search.

Because there are over 75,000 refugees in this camp now, I was certain it would be a long and tedious process.

But we quickly located the camp area where people from the boy's village had settled. We asked the village elders and they guided us to the child's straw and mud hut.

After endless questioning, we finally learned that he was gone.

"To Nyala," they said. "Someone came for him".

It turned out that "someone" had been an IRC national staff member who had gone to Kalma the previous day and taken the boy to Nyala. IRC-Nyala was at that moment speaking to him.

The villagers quickly produced another victim of that horrific attack.


Abdul was 33 years old when the Janjaweed rode in to his small village.

He was desperate to escape the carnage - there was no time to find family or friends.

Chaos ruled the scene. Abdul panicked and raced for the outskirts of the village but the horsemen saw his flight and they shot him in the back.

He fell to the ground, helpless and unable to escape.

As the horsemen rode by, they used their blazing torches to set his hands and feet on fire.

He saw the flames consume his hands but, until the Janjaweed rode out, he could not dampen the flames.

Finally, another villager came to his rescue and doused the flames.

After several months in a local hospital, he too was discharged to Kalma camp.

Today, Abdul, though lucky to be alive is as helpless as the day the Janjaweed attacked his village.

Though he can walk, his hands have scarred and formed into frozen claws and he is unable to feed, bathe or dress himself.

He was a tailor by trade that grey morning. But now, he can never sew again.

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