The European Union's mission to protect refugees from Darfur in Chad has been deployed, its commander promising to use force "against those who deserve to have force used against them".(Report: G. Cragg/ K.Hakiki/V.Herz)
Read the notebook by our special correspondent in Chad, Virginie Herz.
The commander of the European Union force in Chad and the Central African Republic warned Wednesday that his troops will hit back at the first hint of attack.
French General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, who will eventually count 2,100 compatriots within the 3,700-strong deployment from 14 nations by May, is the commander on the ground of the force known as EUFOR.
He gave a press conference in Ndjamena two days after the EUFOR reached initial operational capacity, marking the start of a 12-month United Nations Security Council mandate.
"All physical or meaningful threats will draw a reaction from our side," Ganascia said. "The rules governing the limits of how we can react are those set down by the UN," he said, referring to a September 2007 resolution which authorises "all necessary measures."
As of Monday, 1,750 troops were stationed in the area, the vast majority of them French, with Swedish and Finnish soldiers guarding a command centre in the Chadian capital Ndjamena.
A network of mini-bases in the east of Chad stretching right to the Sudanese border includes a functioning Italian hospital and an Irish-manned frontier outpost.
The mission's duty is to protect refugees in both countries from Sudan's conflict-wracked western Darfur region across their border, as well as Chadians and CAR villagers displaced by internal strife. They total more than 450,000 people.
Irish General Pat Nash leads the force from its headquarters just outside Paris.
Deployment was initially held up by difficulties raising the necessary ground and air power from EU nations.
A further delay was caused by a Chadian rebel assault on Ndjamena on February 2-3, which led to fierce fighting in the capital before a fractious alliance was repelled by government troops with French logistical support.
Even before its mandate officially began, a French EUFOR sergeant was fatally shot when his patrol vehicle accidentally crossed into Sudan and Sudanese forces "opened fire without warning", according to the French military.
Sudan last week said it wanted EU peacekeepers to pay tens of thousands of dollars in compensation for four nomads killed in the recovery of the body of the dead French soldier when a grenade exploded.
Date created : 2008-03-20