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Friday, February 01, 2008

Sudan Backed Rebes Mount Major offensive to Take the Chadian Capital, Battle at Massaguet

The watch for the release of missionary Cash Steve Godbold has been complicated by apparent coorindated Rebel Attacks in Chad, with rebel forces moving on the Capital from both the South and the East.

The following is from today's Ramadji, a local Chad e-newspaper.


February 1, 2008 (NDJAMENA) — Fighting broke out Friday between Chadian government forces and rebels just 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of the capital Ndjamena, military and rebel sources said.

A military source said "heavy fighting" had been underway for about an hour as government forces engaged the main rebel force around the town of Massaguet.

Rebel sources, contacted by satellite phone, confirmed the outbreak of hostilities and said they had been bombed by Chadian air force planes.

The rebel alliance led by Timan Erdimi, Mahamat Nouri and Adbelwahid Aboud Makaye moved on Ndjamena after crossing southern Chad from bases in west Sudan, which Ndjamena accuses of backing the rebel militias.

Chadian government troops led by President Idriss Beby Itno had rushed back to defend the capital on Thursday, while France announced it was boosting its forces in the country in response to the unrest.

Government soldiers had initially driven east to intercept the rebels, but the head of state and a small escort returned to Ndjamena and formed a "belt" around the city, a military source said.

The manoeuvring came on the day the advance guard of an EU peacekeeping force was due to begin deploying.

The head of the EUFOR operation, General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, said any rebel advance would only delay, not divert, his mission.France, Chad’s former colonial master, flew an extra company of troops into Chad from Libreville on Friday to protect its nationals, and has closed down its school in Ndjamena as a precaution.

"Precautionary measures are being taken for the French nationals in the eventuality of trouble in Ndjamena, including a reinforcement of the Sparrowhawk group," a source close to French Defence Minister Herve Morin said.

Some 2,000 French soldiers have been deployed in Chad since 1986 under the codename Sparrowhawk. Morin said in Washington Thursday — rounding up a 36-hour visit to the United States — that France would fulfil its commitments to Chad, which include logistical support to the Chadian army and help with intelligence.

The EUFOR mission is tasked with protecting refugees from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, just over Chad’s eastern border, as well as Chadians and people of the neighbouring Central African Republic displaced by internal conflict.

Ganascia said the military stand-off in the country could delay his mission "by a few days" thanks to logistics problems, but not divert it."I am not concerned (by the rebel manoeuvres) unless during their offensive they threaten or attack civilians, or the non-governmental organisations, or UN personnel," he said in Abeche. But he added that if the rebels confront the EU force "believe me, I will face them down."

Observers had feared that rebels could begin a new offensive before March. "They have a window to fight before the effective deployment of the European force fixes positions on the ground, which the Sudanese want," one told AFP.Both sides said French military reconnaissance planes were flying regular sorties to gather information on rebel movements.

About 234,000 Darfur refugees, along with 179,000 displaced eastern Chadians and 43,000 Central Africans uprooted by strife and rebellion in the north of their country, are housed in camps in the region.The last clash in eastern Chad claimed several hundred lives on both sides in November 2007, and rebels last moved on Ndjamena in April 2006.

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