Home | News    Sunday 15 June 2008

Chad says rebels flee to Sudanese border

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June 14, 2008 (N’DJAMENA) — Chadian government said a rebel force attacked the town of Goz Beida near the Sudanese border and fled to the east after capturing vehicles of a German organisation working the refugee camps.

Goz Beida is a strategic town in the hilly south east. Nearly 80,000 displaced Chadians and some 36,000 refugees from neighbouring Sudan’s war-battered Darfur region live nearby in camps.

The Spokesperson of the Chadian government, Mahamat Hissein, announced today that a "column of mercenaries" attacked Goz-Beida in mid-day and fled from the town after killing a woman and stealing three vehicles of the German cooperation agency (GTZ).

The government rejects the rebel announcements of a new major offensive and describes it as "rebel propaganda".

But arebel spokesperson Abderaman Koulamallah said that their troops left the town to rejoin another rebel forces in the area. He further added that the biggest clashes will probably begin on Sunday.

Koulamallah said the rebel force had some 500 to 600 vehicles and 7,000 to 8,000 men at their disposal, nearly double the number of a similar offensive in February.

"The rebels were only passing through Goz Beida and were not staying," another local source told the AFP.

The Government Spokesperson said that Eufor The Chadian army and began to secure Goz-Beida. "Eufor secure the humanitarian part and refugees and the Chadian army secure the rest of the city."

Around 500 Irish and 70 Dutch troops make up the EUFOR contingent in the region, whose mission is to protect civilians and refugees fleeing Darfur.

European Union peacekeepers returned fire after coming under attack in eastern Chad Saturday. The firefight, in which no EUFOR troops were injured, took place shortly after noon about four kilometres north of Goz Beida, where troops were protecting the refugee camp.

Another rebel spokesman, Abdelwawid Abud Makaye, president of the Union of Democratic Forces for Fundamental Development (UFDD-F), said their forces "controlled the whole sector".

"We are now discussing strategy," he added. "When we took Goz Beida, we captured 20 army vehicles. We didn’t take any injuries. However the army suffered several deaths," he said.

"We have 500 pick-up trucks with well-armed men. Our aim is to take Ndjamena by the weekend which we will, God willing," Aboud Makaye added.

The rebel said a convoy of vehicles was heading towards the town of Mangalme, some 75 kilometres west of Goz Beida and 5OO kilometres east of Chad’s capital.

The Chadian rebel offensive against Deby had been widely expected since Sudanese Darfuri insurgents attacked the Sudanese capital Khartoum in May. Both countries accuse each other of supporting rebel groups hostile to each others’ governments.

(ST)

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