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The Chad News Archive

Rebels, military 'clash in Chad'

AFP (05/06/09)

LIBREVILLE (AFP) — Sudan-backed rebels clashed with Chad government forces and said Wednesday they are aiming to take the capital Ndjamena.

The government said its forces had bombed the rebels but there was no fighting on the ground so far in the the rebel incursion, which has again heightened tensions between Chad and its neighbour.

Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) rebels said they had fought a "very short battle" with government troops on Tuesday near the border with Sudan and the Central African Republic.

"UFR forces continue to progress towards total control of Chad's main towns," rebel spokesman Ali Ordjo Hemchi said in a statement.

"We are doing everything in our power to reach Ndjamena. Our final objective is Ndjamena," another rebel official told AFP by telephone.

In the statement, Hemchi said the rebels captured 12 army vehicles and destroyed nine others in Tuesday's clash between the towns of Tissi and Haraz-Mangue, claiming the government troops fled. He gave no details of casualties.

Interior and Public Security Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir said however that the rebels had been "localised and dealt with by our aircraft."

Chad's government announced Tuesday that the rebels had launched an assault backed by Sudan, using several hundred vehicles. It accused Sudan of reneging on a peace agreement only signed at the weekend. Khartoum denied any part in the offensive.

The African Union expressed "deep concern" over the rebel hostilities that have cast a new shadow over efforts to normalise long-strained ties between the two neighbours.

AU commission chairman Jean Ping "calls on the parties concerned to exercise restraint and demonstrate responsibility as required by the best interests of Chad and the region as a whole," added an AU statement.

Heavy gunfire was heard on Wednesday by residents in eastern town of Goz Beida, one of them told AFP.

Interior Minister Bachir implicitly confirmed this, stating that planes had attacked the rebels around Kerfi which is about 45 kilometers (27 miles) to the south.

Goz Beida was calm, but the United Nations has urged its staff and the personnel of aid agencies helping hundreds of thousands of refugees to avoid leaving settlements and camps if possible.

A deal brokered by Qatar and Libya was signed on Sunday in Doha. It is regarded as essential to any lasting settlement to a six-year-old uprising in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where Chad's rebels also have rear bases.

Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat met his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner in Paris and later said Chad was not seeking immediate military aid, though a technical cooperation accord was "still valid."

"For the time being, the Chadian army has the capacity to address this new threat," Mahamat told RFI radio, but he called on the AU and the UN Security Council to condemn "this blatant act of large-scale aggression."

France has 1,100 soldiers serving in its former colony under a bilateral accord and 800 of its troops are serving in a UN-led force that last month took over from a European mission to protect refugees in camps.

In February last year, rebels battled their way to Ndjamena in a bid to overthrow President Idiss Deby Itno before being beaten back with logistical help from some French forces.

The UN mission in Chad (MINURCAT) said it had stepped up military patrols around Goz Beida and restricted the movements of humanitarian personnel helping some 450,000 Darfur refugees in Chad and the Central African Republic.

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