French forces bomb towns in eastern Chad: rebels

13th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 13, 2006 (AFP) - A Chadian rebel leader Thursday alleged French fighter planes on Thursday bombed several rebel-held towns in eastern Chad, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties.

PARIS, April 13, 2006 (AFP) - A Chadian rebel leader Thursday alleged French fighter planes on Thursday bombed several rebel-held towns in eastern Chad, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties.

France — which has 1,200 troops present in the country — immediately denied the charge; the defence ministry said that "warning shots" had been fired towards rebels columns advancing on the capital on Wednesday.

"We have just learned that since this morning, in eastern Chad, French army aircraft have been carrying out a military intervention," the representative in France for the United Front for Change (FUC), former Chadian foreign minister Laona Gong, told AFP.

"We deplore the numerous civilian victims of the French bombings in the towns of Adre and Moudeina", he said, without giving a precise number of casualties.

Gong charged that France "is not remaining neutral" and accused it of lending "blind" support to the regime of President Idriss Deby Itno.

France's defence ministry said a French Mirage jet had fired warning shots near a rebel column advancing on the capital N'Djamena from the east on Wednesday morning, as a "political signal".

The long-distance shots were fired around 250 kilometres east of N'Djamena, and caused no casualties, defence ministry spokesman Jean-François Bureau said.

Bureau described the shots as a "political signal, with the framework of the security of our nationals" in Chad.

But he denied Gong's allegations as "without foundation." French forces "are not involved in military actions" in Chad, he said.

The French foreign ministry warned that the deteriorating security situation in Chad "very worrying".

Paris has advised the estimated 1,500 French civilians present in the country — most of them in N'Djamena — to exercise "caution", but has issued no order to evacuate, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

France on Wednesday ordered another 150 there in response to the worsening security situation that has triggered alarm across the international community.

The FUC rebels, which are seeking to oust Deby, were battling government troops Thursday on the outskirts of N'Djamena, and a number of them had entered the capital, military sources said.

The president however said that the army was in control of the city.

"The rebel columns have been completely destroyed... The situation is completely under control," he told Radio France Internationale (RFI).

He also denied that French troops were involved in fighting the rebels.

"For the moment, we do not need the support of the French military," he said. "We have our own means of solving this problem."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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