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Friday, December 15, 2006

Chad's Army, Rebels Claim Victory After Major Fighting

Chad's army says it has annihilated rebels following major fighting in the east, but rebels deny the claim. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from VOA's regional bureau in Dakar. Chad's communications minister, Moussa Doumgor, says two armed rebel groups known as UFDD and SCUD were "totally annihilated." He said fighting is now over after mopping up operations in the aftermath of fierce battles early Saturday near the town of Biltine. He said the rebel losses were in the hundreds, while the national army suffered some losses. Both rebels and military sources said President Idriss Deby, himself a former rebel, went to eastern Chad to personally command his forces. But a Dakar-based spokesman for one of the rebel groups, Maikalu Nguebla, denies the government's version of events.

He says the government is telling lies to manipulate opinion. He says there were losses on both sides, but that it is army soldiers who fled, and who appear completely unmotivated. He also denies earlier reports rebels retreated to bases in Sudan, saying all rebels remain active within Chad. The rebels have said they plan to topple President Deby before the end of the year. They deny his accusations they are backed by Sudan as part of an alleged plot to spread its Darfur conflict across borders. The rebels say their weapons are from army soldiers who are defecting to their side. President Deby has been getting help from a small French force to defeat the rebels, who have so far adopted a strategy of hitting and escaping different eastern areas.
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