Chad rebels announced a fresh offensive against the government on Thursday, targeting helicopters, but said they would halt their advance if France and the EU pressed President Idriss Deby to hold peace talks.
Rebel forces in
But they offered to call off the advance if France and the European Union, which have supported Deby’s rule over the landlocked oil producer, pressed him into holding all-inclusive peace talks with rebel groups and civilian opponents.
There was no immediate reaction from the Chadian government nor any clear independent confirmation of the rebels’ statement that their columns had pushed westwards “deep inside” the eastern Dar Sila region of
However, Irish troops stationed in east Chad as part of an EU protection force (EUFOR) for U.N.-run refugee camps said they had received reports of combat at Modeina near the Sudan border between rebel ground forces and Chadian government aircraft.
A spokesman for the Irish troops said two Chadian helicopters were hit by ground fire from rebel anti-aircraft guns cannon one crash-landed, while the other landed safely.
Abderaman Koulamallah of the rebel National Alliance told Reuters four rebel columns had moved westwards, hoping to topple Deby after a February attack on the capital N’Djamena failed to.
“We plan to carry the war to the interior of the country,” said Koulamallah, whose Democratic Union for Change (UDC) group belongs to the insurgent alliance.
He said he was speaking by telephone from
Koulamallah said the rebels were prepared to call off their offensive if France and the European Union forced Deby to agree to round table talks on
“If France and the European Union get involved to guarantee an accord, we are ready not to go to war,” he said.
The rebels, who
Koulamallah said the rebels wanted French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pledged strong support for Deby after the February rebel assault on the capital, to host a peace conference.
In Thursday’s clash in the Dar Sila region, the rebel forces used anti-aircraft guns mounted on trucks to fire back at two government helicopters that attacked them from the air. One helicopter was shot down, Koulamallah said.
TWO HELICOPTERS “HIT”
Commandant Stephen Morgan, spokesman for the Irish 97th Infantry Battalion based at Goz-Beida in eastern
But he added: “I can confirm that a Chadian helicopter has been taken down just outside Abeche near the airfield in what appears to be a controlled crash-landing due to damage sustained from ground fire from 23-millimetre anti-aircraft weapons”.
“There were two aircraft that sustained damage but the second one managed to land,” he said.
Fighting killed several hundred people in February when rebel forces raced across the country and attacked N’Djamena.
The rebels withdrew after the government and military of former colonial power
A fresh Chadian rebel offensive against Deby had been widely expected since Sudanese Darfuri insurgents attacked the Sudanese capital
In their statement, the Chadian rebels urged
Date created : 2008-06-13