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Chad reiterates determination to pursue rebels in Sudan

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January 8, 2008 (NDJAMENA) — Chad’s government declared Tuesday it had a right to pursue Chadian rebels hiding in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan, following the bombing of rebel bases across the troubled border.

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A Chadian soldier watches as a transport helicopter flies over the Kapka mountain range near the border with Sudan. (AFP)

The Chadian air force carried out the bombing raids over the past two days, targetting the positions of rebels opposed to Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, in power since 1990.

"If they (the rebels) come from Sudan it is not surprising that that we hit them where they come from," said government spokesman Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor when asked by AFP about the bombings, without elaborating further.

"We are in a state of alert... and our air force is monitoring the border from one end to the other to be prepared for any eventuality," he added.

Khartoum has denounced the bombing raids, claiming civilians have been killed in the attacks and has lodged a protest with the UN Security Council.

As for the Chadian rebels, a spokesman for the latest rebel alliance formed in mid-December, Abderaman Koulamallah, said an attack on Monday could not have affected the movement since "our troops are all on the Chadian side of the border."

However, the head of one group in the Alliance, the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development - Fundamental (UFDD-F), acknowledged his base in Sudan was hit on Sunday.

"I was bombed on December 28 and yesterday (Sunday) by Chadian aircraft inside Sudan," Abdelwahid Aboud Makaye said, reached by satellite telephone from Libreville, admitting his headquarters are on the Sudanese side of the border.

Chadian military sources told AFP Monday that the air force had bombed several rebel bases south of El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) across the desert from Abeche, the main town in eastern Chad. They also said the same area was hit on Sunday.

A Sudanese army spokesman has said that Chadian aircraft bombed positions in the west of strife-torn Darfur early Sunday, killing three civilians and wounding four more.

The bombing raids mark an escalation in long-standing tensions between the two central African nations and come after Deby warned Saturday that he would purse the rebels in Sudan, whose leaders he accuses of backing the insurgents to destabilise Chad.

"We’re going to destroy them in their nest inside Sudan. We’re going to make them eat dust inside Sudan," he said.

The Chadian government in a statement Tuesday again accused Khartoum of "arming and training" the Chadian rebels in Sudan and of "actively preparing new aggressions against Chad."

"Chad maintains the right not only to respond to any attack from where it is launched, but also to use its legitimate right of pursuit" against those who threaten its sovereignty, the statement said.

Deby, who has backing from French troops permanently based in the central African nation, initially came to power in 1990 in a rebellion launched from eastern Chad and has faced successive bouts of insurgency.

The army has been strengthened by weaponry bought with oil revenues, but rebel leaders in November and December expressed disquiet at plans to deploy a French-led European peacekeeping force in Chad to protect hundreds of thousands of Darfur refugees and internally displaced Chadians.

(AFP)

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