By Stephanie Hancock
N‘DJAMENA, May 25 (Reuters) - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily suspended operations in an area of eastern Chad bordering Sudan’s Darfur after attackers beat up two local employees, a WFP spokesman said on Friday.
The attack took place on Thursday in Chad’s Biltine district at the town of Iriba, from where WFP supplies food to three U.N.-run camps sheltering 56,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled fighting in Darfur.
"Two of our local staff were attacked by intruders at their home and as a result we have suspended operations," WFP’s spokesman for West Africa, Marcus Prior, told Reuters.
The identity of the attackers was not immediately known.
Eastern Chad has suffered successive waves of violence over the last year, much of it spilling over from the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where political and ethnic conflict has raged since 2003.
This has included cross-border raids by Sudanese Janjaweed militia, attacks by eastern Chadian rebels opposed to President Idriss Deby and inter-communal violence between Arab and non-Arab communities. Hundreds of civilians have been killed.
U.N. officials said the two attacked Chadian WFP workers were evacuated to the capital N‘Djamena on Friday and one was still seriously injured in hospital. The attackers in Iriba left a letter containing threats against other humanitarian staff, mentioning some of them by name.
"We feel threatened and targeted and we really want to know that the security situation will improve before we can become fully operational again," Prior said. U.N. relief agencies were waiting for Chadian army reinforcements to arrive in Iriba.
The latest attack occurred as Chadian authorities said they did not plan to extend a six-month state of emergency declared in November in several parts of the landlocked country, including the east and N‘Djamena.
"If it needs to be prolonged then this will be done ... But at this stage there is no plan to do this, " Abderaman Djasnabaille, Secretary of State for the Interior, told Reuters.
The state of emergency, which included curfews and gave authorities sweeping powers to deal with ethnic fighting, expires on Saturday.
Chad’s opposition and rights activists have accused Deby’s government of using the emergency powers to try to muzzle critics and the media.