Home | News    Wednesday 5 December 2007

Chad’s govt, rebels report new fighting

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December 4, 2007 (NDJAMENA) — The Chadian army fought heavy battles against rebel forces Tuesday in the east of the country near the border with Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, sources on the two sides said.

Soldiers from Chad’s National Army man a tank in Adre, bordering Sudan’s Darfur region, February 5, 2007. (Reuters)

Government forces and rebel groups have been fighting for more than a week, since a collapse of a preliminary peace accord.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency warned the renewed fighting had limited its access to refugee camps.

Camps housing some 210,000 people from Darfur "are starting to suffer the consequences of the volatile situation" as UNHCR and its partners only had limited access due to the violence, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva.

Sources from both sides said Tuesday’s clashes erupted just before dawn in the Kapka hills, north of the main eastern town of Abeche. Fierce combat ended in mid-morning, though fighting later resumed.

Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) spokesman Id Moura Maide said by telephone the Chadian army had sent reinforcements after fighting in the morning, with "sporadic" clashes occurring later."

RFC chief Timan Erdimi said after the morning battle that the rebels had "pushed back" government troops.

"It is difficult to come up with a casualty number for now," he said.

A Chadian military source in the capital Ndjamena provided a different account, saying "the rebels have taken refuge in the caves of Hadjer Kapka."

"We are surrounding them," the source said. "The fighting was very violent."

Later, a military source confirmed the army had sent reinforcements and that they were "trying to dislodge rebels who are in the mountain."

RFC forces and the army also fought battles in the region on Monday. On Saturday, Chad air force jets bombed RFC camps.

The RFC and the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), the two main rebel groups in Chad, have said they were coordinating their battle against President Idriss Deby Itno.

The UFDD has fought three major battles with the army in eastern Chad in the past week.

But UFDD secretary general Abakar Tollimi said Monday that there had been "bad coordination" between the two groups.

Though both groups want to force the president out and are believed to have links with neighbouring Sudan, they are divided by clan loyalties and have had difficulty uniting in the past, observers say.

UFDD founder general Mahamat Nouri, a former defence minister, is from the Gorane ethnic clan, like ex-dictator Hissene Habre, whom Deby deposed in 1990.

The RFC’s Erdimi and his twin Tom are from the Zaghawa clan and are Deby’s nephews. They served in key government posts before defecting, and experts say they want to keep the Zaghawa in power if Deby falls.

The renewed fighting has cast new doubts about a planned French-led EU peacekeeping force in the region. Chad has accused Sudan of backing the rebels.

(AFP)

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