DJAWARA, Chad — There was no time for grave markers. But around some of the dirt mounds, the victims' shoes were laid out neatly like slippers beside a bed.
Wild animals had unearthed body parts and human bones from the hastily dug mass graves. As local elder Abdullah Aziz Ibrahim walked through the pasture, he held his breath against the stench.
"They killed us one by one," he said. He stooped over the grave of one former neighbor to try to cover the man's exposed skull with branches and leaves.
The Darfur conflict in neighboring Sudan is bleeding across the border into Chad, and the massacre in Djawara, where 117 people are believed to have died in April, is the most gruesome evidence yet.
Scenes like this are common in western Sudan, but around here no one can remember anything similar. Tribesmen and aid workers say the tribes of eastern Chad have lived in relative harmony for years, with the occasional skirmishes over cattle and water.
But as world leaders push for peace in Darfur and the United Nations is hoping to deploy peacekeepers, the militias known as \o7janjaweed\f7 have started using the same terror tactics here, stealing cattle, and killing or displacing thousands of civilians, say displaced Chadians, aid workers and local government officials.
The violence started spreading into Chad late last year, but since March it has occurred deeper in Chad and become increasing deadly. The number of militant groups on all sides of the conflict is growing.
About 50,000 Chadians have abandoned their homes and are living in camps, often next to refugees from Darfur, which puts further pressure on international aid efforts. Violence in some border towns has become so intense that, for the first time, several thousand Chadians have fled into Darfur.
Most alarming to many here, the Sudanese \o7janjaweed\f7, which reportedly have been supported by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, are radicalizing related tribes in Chad and luring them to participate in attacks by promising a share of the stolen land and cattle, Chadian officials, displaced civilians and aid workers say. The conflict on both sides of the border pits tribes who view themselves chiefly as Arabs against those who think of themselves as black or African.
"They are instigating the Arabs here," said Moussa Mustafa, a Chad-based military leader with the Sudanese Liberation Army, one of the Darfur rebel groups fighting the Sudanese government.
"Now we have a Chadian \o7janjaweed\f7," said Seid Brahim, the local sultan in Goz Beida.
Victims of recent violence in Chad say some attackers appear to be Sudanese, but they insist that local tribes are also participating.
"We know them well," said Fizanie Mahmat, 45, whose husband was killed during a major offensive in March near the border in the district of Modeyna. "We grew up together and see them in the market. We all used to live in harmony. But the \o7janjaweed\f7 from Sudan have changed them."
Most of the attacks in southeastern Chad target one tribe, the Dadjo.
"They are only stealing from people who have black skin," said Hassoun Idrisse, 32, a chief of Modeyna. "They want to make Chad an Arab country."
The brutality of the attacks has shocked Dadjo leaders.
When horsemen surrounded Djawara, about 40 miles west of the border with Sudan, villagers had just finished prayers and were resting under the trees. Several hundred attackers began rounding up cattle and ransacking huts, witnesses said.
Most women and children escaped, but a large group of the men, armed only with thin spears, were chased to a nearby pasture, where they tried to hide in the trees. The bullet-riddled body of one man remained tangled in a treetop until it finally dropped to the ground recently, witnesses said.
After the attack, a dozen Djawara men were taken prisoner and forced to carry the bodies of dead \o7janjaweed\f7 fighters to a hiding place at a mountain base several miles away, survivors said. They think the men were killed, but their bodies have not been recovered.
The pasture was the biggest of several battlegrounds around Djawara. Frightened villagers waited 12 days before returning to the pasture, which they found littered with spent cartridges, 42 decomposing bodies and leather amulets worn by the victims to ward off evil spirits. Fearful of another attack, they quickly turned the pasture into a makeshift cemetery, burying as many as a dozen victims in a grave.
Villagers say 117 people are dead or missing and presumed dead. Most Djawara survivors say they are still too afraid to return to the village to properly bury their relatives. They have sought refuge in a village several miles away.
"If I went to his grave, they'd kill me too," said Khalima Mohammed Hami, speaking of her husband, whose grave had been dug up by animals.