Home | News    Monday 10 April 2006

Rebels launch assault in southern Chad

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April 9, 2006 (N’DJAMENA) — Insurgents sworn to ousting Chad’s President Idriss Deby attacked an army base in the remote southeast on Sunday and said they had taken two other towns in what the government said was an attempt to derail May elections.

An alliance of nine Chadian guerrilla groups, the United Front for Democratic Change (FUC), said it carried out the attack on the town of Haraze Mangueigne, close to the borders with Sudan and Central African Republic, and said it had also taken control of Am Timan and Abou-Deia further northwest.

"This is only the beginning — our morale is very high," Abdel Rahman Abdel Karim, one of the rebel FUC leaders, told Reuters by phone. He said the fighting had lasted one hour with only four men injured and that 50 prisoners had been taken.

But a Chadian military source said the attackers had not got beyond Haraze Mangueigne.

"Neither Am Timam nor Abou-Deia are affected and they are not under the control of rebel units. For now the security forces are at Haraze Mangueigne," the source said.

Chad’s government said in a statement it had sent army reinforcements to the Haraze Mangueigne garrison to try to overcome the attackers, but made no mention of the other two towns or of any casualties.

"The attackers in 22 vehicles used Central African territory to outmanoeuvre Chadian army units based in this border region," Communication Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said.

"Fighting is going on around the area but the Chadian armed forces are about to push the attackers back... This attack was orchestrated by the Sudanese government, which has for several days ... been delivering arms and munitions to various small groups of Chadians aiming to destabilise the country."

ELECTIONS

Abdel Karim said a helicopter had tried to bomb the insurgents but left after they opened fire on it, adding that most government soldiers had fled the rebel assault.

Chad and Sudan accuse each other of backing rebels fighting governments in N’Djamena and Khartoum but agreed at a summit hosted by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli in February to stop insurgents setting up bases on their territories.

The instability in Chad comes ahead of a May election which President Deby hopes will extend his 15-year rule in the central African country, which began pumping crude oil in 2003.

A referendum last year approved a constitutional amendment abolishing a two-term limit for presidents, clearing the way for Deby — who first seized power in 1990 and won elections in 1996 and 2001 — to stand for a third elected term.

"The primary objective of this (rebel) operation is to prevent, with terrorist acts, the holding of the presidential elections on May 3," Doumgor said.

"The Chad government will use all means to bring peace back to its borders with Sudan, whatever the price it has to pay."

(Reuters)

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