Chad claims rebels advance towards capital

A Sudanese-backed Chadian rebel column has advanced deep into Chad towards the capital, Ndjamena, in the west, the government said in a statement broadcast by state media on Thursday.

A separate security source in Ndjamena said the column of about 300 vehicles had passed through the town of Ati and halted 250km east of Ndjamena when a Chadian army column advanced to confront it.

European Union peacekeepers are due to deploy to eastern Chad in the coming weeks to protect hundreds of thousands of refugees from violence spilling over Chad’s border with Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.

Chad and Sudan accuse each other of supporting rebel groups in their respective territories, though each denies it.

Chad’s government said in its statement the rebels had moved into the town of Oum Hadjer, more than 500km east of Ndjamena, on Wednesday, after crossing the border from Sudan earlier this week.

But the security source, who asked not be named, said the rebel column had already advanced nearer the capital.

”They’ve passed Ati, they are now west of Ati and they’ve halted,” the source said.

”There is a Chadian army column in front of them and there are other Chadian forces between them and the capital.”

Chadian army units stepped up patrols on the streets of Ndjamena, a witness said.

France’s embassy closed the French school in Ndjamena and advised its citizens to limit their movements in the city, Radio France International reported.

The United States embassy advised Americans to avoid all travel to eastern Chad and to limit all non-essential movements in Ndjamena itself. — Reuters

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