Home | News    Wednesday 30 January 2008

Chad bombs rebels as European troops arrive

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January 29, 2008 (NDJAMENA) — Chad’s air force on Tuesday attacked rebel positions in the east of the country, rebel and military sources said, after an Italian contingent of EU peacekeepers arrived in the capital.

"This morning, (President Idriss) Deby’s aircraft bombed us near Ade, close to the Sudanese border," Abakar Tollimi, secretary general of one faction in a newly formed rebel alliance said.

"Our anti-aircraft defence fired back," he added by satellite telephone. "We are waiting for a ground attack."

A military source confirmed the air raids and said they had begun on Monday evening after rebels crossed the border from western Sudan. No casualties were reported, but the hostilities were the first since early December.

Meanwhile, about 20 Italians arrived Monday in Ndjamena, where an officer in an EU peacekeeping force due to deploy both in eastern Chad and the northeast of the Central African Republic said they were to set up a field hospital.

The EU military mission, EUFOR, is expected in coming months to protect refugees from Sudan’s neighbouring Darfur region and people displaced by the insurgency in Chad and also northern CAR.

EU foreign ministers announced Monday during a meeting in Brussels that they had "adopted a decision on the launching of the European Union military operation in the Republic of Chad and in the Central African Republic."

That move allowed EUFOR’s Paris-based commander, Irish General Pat Nash, to begin deploying the force, in which France will supply the lion’s share of the troops and get the operation under way.

Deployment in the field will be overseen by French General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, who has already arrived in Chad and expects most of his 3,700 troops to arrive within weeks and the rest by June, when the rainy season is due and will make movement more difficult.

The EUFOR Chad-CAR mission has a UN Security Council mandate to back up for one year some 300 UN police officers sent to monitor camps for Darfur refugees and internally displaced persons.

The air raids at Ade were only about 50 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of the town of Goz Beida, where there are large camps for Darfur refugees, but in Brussels on Tuesday, EUFOR’s General Nash said the mission would be "a robust strong security presence."

Chad’s rebels have warned that should they see any threat from the European soldiers or be stopped by them fighting Chad’s army, they will consider them an enemy force allied to Deby, who has long had French backing.

Nash warned that the rebels were no business of the mission if they left it alone, but "we take action, if they interfere with our mission." When asked if his troops would open fire, he said: "Yes."

About 234,000 Darfur refugees, along with 179,000 displaced eastern Chadians and 43,000 Central Africans also uprooted by strife and rebellion in the north of their country, are housed in camps in the region.

Between November 26 and December 4, Tollimi’s Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) and the allied Rally of Forces for Change clashed with Chadian troops at the cost of several hundred lives on both sides.

Late in December and early in January, Chad aircraft attacked the rebels, but on the Sudanese side of the border.

The clashes came despite a peace accord signed last year between Ndjamena and rebel leaders, but Chad’s military history has long been one of successive insurgencies, coups and broken pacts.

Deby took power in a 1990 coup, but reintroduced multiparty politics and has ruled as elected president since 1996.

(AFP)

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