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February 2008 - Posts

Teddy row teacher heads to China
Gillian Gibbons
Mrs Gibbons said she would work at a Muslim school in the future
A Liverpool teacher who was jailed in Sudan for calling a teddy bear Mohammed, is preparing to start a new job at a school in China.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Aigburth, Liverpool, was spared flogging but was sentenced to 15 days in custody after being convicted of insulting Islam.

She was pardoned after eight days by President Omar al-Bashir last December.

Mrs Gibbons will take up the 18-month post, at an English speaking school near Beijing, in two weeks.

Hopefully this time she won't end up in prison
Gill Langworthy, friend

Her friend, Gill Langworthy, said Mrs Gibbons had not been put off by her experience in Sudan.

She added, "Hopefully this time she won't end up in prison.

"Gillian is really excited, she's a bit nervous, but excited. She has not let things put her off."

Mrs Gibbons also said she had not ruled out working in a Muslim country again at some point.

The divorced mother of two was freed after two British Muslim peers flew to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to champion her cause.

Her treatment caused international outrage, with British Muslim groups describing it as excessive.

Chad declares state of emergency
The president of Chad, Idriss Deby (6 February)
Idriss Deby has accused Sudan of being behind the coup bid
The president of Chad has declared a nationwide state of emergency, saying it was needed to restore order after the recent coup attempt in the capital.

In a speech broadcast on state media, Idriss Deby said the emergency powers would be in effect for 15 days.

They include a night-time curfew and controls on the movement of vehicles.

The rebels, who Chad claims are backed by Sudan, were driven from N'Djamena after two days of fighting and back towards the eastern border with Sudan.

Meanwhile, one of three missing opposition leaders has been found, according to Interior Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir.

We left our houses and took to the streets to say hello to the rebels. We can't go back now
Emmanuel, student

 
"We have just found [former President] Lol Mahamat Choua, who is alive. I cannot give you more details at the moment," he said, according to the AFP news agency.

Earlier this week, France and human rights groups expressed their concern after the three disappeared during the fighting.

France has also acknowledged that its forces transported weapons to Chad's army as it beat back the rebel assault.

The former colonial power said it had acted in accordance with a military co-operation agreement between the two countries.

Scared

Mr Deby said the emergency decree instituted "measures important and urgent to maintain order, guarantee stability and assure the good functioning of the state".

It also authorised "house searches and controls on the private and public press".

map

 
The BBC's Stephanie Hancock says residents of opposition areas of the capital are scared, with few people out on the streets.

One of the 30,000 people who fled Chad to Cameroon told her that some people had welcomed the rebel advance.

"We left our houses and took to the streets to say hello to the rebels. We can't go back now," said a young student called Emmanuel.

"The government forces are going from house to house mistreating us civilians because we cheered for the rebels."

The assault began on 2 February, when the rebels seized control of large parts of the capital, approaching the palace where Mr Deby was holding out.

The Red Cross said more than 160 people were killed and 1,000 injured in the fighting.

Mr Deby has accused Sudan of being behind the coup bid.

Chad says Darfur wants to delay the deployment of an EU peacekeeping force to Chad, to safeguard refugees from Darfur.

But Khartoum has denied the allegations and in turn accuses Chad of backing rebels in Darfur.

The deployment of the 4,000-strong EU force was delayed by the rebel attacks but is now due by the end of February.

Mr Deby seized power in a coup in 1990, but has won three elections since then, although their legitimacy has been challenged.

China's dilemma over Darfur


Darfur refugee
More than two million have been displaced from Darfur
China has worked hard over the past few months to show it is doing all it can to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

It has appointed a special envoy, sent peacekeeping troops to the region and embarked on a publicity campaign to persuade others it is being responsible.

This was done in part to prevent anyone linking China's close relationship with Sudan to the Olympics Games.

But for Steven Spielberg it was still not enough.

His decision to withdraw as artistic adviser to the Games' opening and closing ceremonies will be seen as a huge blow.

Lucrative friendship

Beijing and Khartoum have long had strong political, economic and military ties.

China imports two-thirds of Sudanese oil - estimated at 500,000 barrels a day.

Boy in Darfur with a replica gun saying 'Made in China'
China is thought to be Sudan's biggest arms supplier
Last year, it imported a total of $4.1bn ($2.0bn) worth of goods from Sudan, mostly oil.

China is also believed to be Sudan's biggest arms supplier.

Because of this strong relationship, Chinese leaders have traditionally resisted international pressure to use their clout to bring peace to Darfur, where there is conflict between government-back militias and rebels.

Beijing has even used its veto at the UN Security Council - to block moves to impose sanctions on Sudan if it fails to stop the fighting in the troubled region.

China's stock response to outside criticism about its Darfur policy always used to be that other countries should not involve themselves in Chinese affairs.

More involvement

But last year Beijing made a slight adjustment to that policy, appointing an envoy to Darfur, Liu Guijin.

He is an experienced diplomat who knows Africa well, having served as ambassador to both Zimbabwe and South Africa.

China also agreed to send in peacekeepers to the region as part of a UN force.

A total of 135 soldiers, who will not be engaged in frontline duties, have already arrived in Darfur.

David Wolf
Most sponsors have anticipated this kind of an issue, are prepared to deal with it
David Wolf, media consultant
China did this after more than 100 US legislators signed a letter last year calling on Beijing to take immediate action to stop the violence in Darfur, which the UN says has left more than 200,000 people dead since 2003.

The London-based human rights organisation, Amnesty International, also claimed that China was selling weapons to Sudan in violation of a UN arms embargo.

Other human rights activists have called on countries to boycott the Beijing Olympics this August because of China's close relationship with Sudan.

And Hollywood star Mia Farrow voiced her own criticism, coining the phrase “genocide Olympics”, words that must have made Beijing officials shudder.

Olympic pressure

So China is currently attempting a delicate balancing act - trying to manage the expectations of the international community while maintaining close ties with Khartoum.

It adjusted its Darfur policy because it wants to be seen as a responsible player on the world stage, with a diplomatic stature to match its growing economic might.

More importantly, it does not want anything to impact on the Olympic Games.

It is not clear how Mr Spielberg's decision will affect the Olympics. But some analysts doubt it will lead to others cutting their links with the event.

“Most sponsors have anticipated this kind of an issue, are prepared to deal with it, and will continue to support the games,” said David Wolf, from media consultants Wolf Group Asia.

Chinese leaders will be hoping he is right.

China and Sudan: Natural partners?


Pagoda in Khartoum
Parts of Khartoum have a distinctly Chinese flavour

 

There are times, wandering round Khartoum, when you might almost imagine yourself to be in China.

Construction is going on everywhere, and a lot of the buildings have huge Chinese characters on them.

Then there are the red-painted arches and the lanterns which are still around from the Chinese New Year.

The buses are Chinese. So are some of the posters.

Yet you see very few Chinese people. They seem to have instructions to stay indoors.

And they certainly do not want to be interviewed by BBC News.

We went round to the headquarters of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, on a fine site overlooking the Blue Nile.

The head of public relations, who was Sudanese, agreed to be interviewed.

We were standing in front of the building, and he was just answering my second question, when there was an angry shout from one of the windows.

He hurried off, and came back a few seconds later.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly, "they say no." "Who do?" "The Chinese."

Immense influence

Secrecy seems to be a pattern here. President Hu Jintao came to Sudan last year and signed an apparently far-reaching agreement with the Sudanese president, Omar Bashir - yet the details were kept secret.

Presidents Hu and Bashir
Few details are known of the deal signed by the countries

Not surprisingly, when the relationship between the two countries is under the microscope because of the fighting in Darfur, this kind of secrecy makes an easy target for China's critics.

There is a wide range of campaigners and groups, from the left to the religious right in the United States who focus on the Darfur issue.

Now they have been joined by Steven Spielberg and a raft of Nobel prize-winners and Olympic gold medallists.

All of them say China must use its immense influence here to oblige the Sudanese government to stop the massacres.

The US government, urged on by the Darfur lobby at home, has introduced sanctions against Sudan.

And it insists the massacres carried out by the ethnic Arab militia groups, the Janjaweed, amount to genocide.

There is absolutely no doubting the enormous clout the Chinese government has in Sudan.

Nobel laureates

Yet is the Sudanese government actually capable of stopping the Darfur massacres?

Even government officials here find it hard to deny that the Janjaweed had the support early on of the Sudanese government, which used it as a weapon in the civil war.

Map

But they maintain now that the violence in Darfur is simply lawlessness and banditry. The authorities in Khartoum, they say, lack the forces to control them.

This is a job which only the new international force, Unamid, can perform.

Well, of course, the Khartoum government's case would be stronger if it had not given a ministerial job to Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

And if it had not appointed a Janjaweed leader, Musa Hilal, to be a special adviser.

Still, I found the diplomats of various Western countries judged Sudan and the Chinese a little less harshly than the US, the Nobel laureates and Steven Spielberg.

Their view is that China is slowly coming round to see that it would be better to persuade Sudan to co-operate with the international community.

And they believe Sudan is not altogether happy to turn its back on Western countries, including the Americans.

"The West is a more natural partner for Sudan than China," one diplomat said, "and most Sudanese know it."

Well, maybe. But China is certainly busy setting its stamp on their country.

President Al-Bashir congratulates President Mubarak

 President Al-Bashir congratulates President Mubarak over Egypt win of African Cup of Nations soccer championship

 

Khartoum, Feb. 10 (SUNA)- President of the Republic Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir made a telephone call Sunday night with Egyptian President Mohamed Husni Mubarak, congratulating him over Egypt win of the African Cup of Nations soccer championship. BT/BT

President Al-Bashir receives written message from Senegalese President

Khartoum, Feb. 10 (SUNA) - President of the Republic Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir has received a written message from Senegalese President Abdullah Wade dealing with inviting him to attend the summit conference of the Organization of Islamic Conference, scheduled for March 13-14 in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. This came when President Al-Bashir received at the Guest House Sunday the envoy of the Senegalese President, Minister at the Senegalese Presidency Ahmed Khalifa, who handed over the message to him. The Senegalese envoy said in a press statement following the meeting that the message also contained the good offices of his country to improve the relations between Sudan and Chad. BT/BT

Sudan arrests over diplomat death
John Granville
Mr Granville was killed while driving home on New Year's Day
Authorities in Sudan have detained two people over the killing of a US diplomat and his driver in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum last month.

Police arrested the suspects in a raid on a hideout in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, Sudan's official Suna news agency said.

Several people were wounded in a shoot-out during the raid.

John Granville and driver Abdel Rahman Abbas died after gunmen opened fire on their car early on New Year's Day.

The BBC's Amber Henshaw, in Sudan, says that this is the first public confirmation that a militant group may have been behind the killings.

FBI investigation

Security services told Reuters news agency that the two men arrested on Saturday were fundamentalists.

The sources said they were part of a group that had plotted to bomb Western embassies in the Sudanese capital last August.

Mr Granville, 33, was an employee of the US Agency for International Development.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sent agents to help with a probe into the killing.

The US embassy in Khartoum had no immediate comment on the arrests.

Plotters escaped

No details were given on the identities of the suspects, one of whom was injured during the raid.

Their interrogation would start immediately, said General Abidin Taher, head of the police criminal investigation department.

In August Sudanese security forces said they had broken up a plot to attack the French, British, US and UN missions in Khartoum.

The group was reportedly discovered in a house in the capital after some of its explosives went off by accident.

At the time the authorities said they had seized arms, explosives and arrested most of the plotters, although a number had managed to get away.

Refugees flee from Darfur to Chad

Darfur refugee, 27 January 2008
More than two million have been displaced from Darfur

About 12,000 people have fled western Sudan into neighbouring Chad, with more expected to follow after deadly attacks on Darfur villages, the UN has said.

Sudan's government said it had launched the attacks against fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement.

But Darfur rebels denied their men had been in the targeted villages and said as many as 200 civilians were killed.

At least two million people have been displaced by the conflict in Darfur, many fleeing west to Chad.

Rebels said government forces had attacked three villages on Friday using aerial bombardment, troops and the Janjaweed Arab militia.

Large numbers of people have been displaced in the past few days and people continue to flee the violence, according to the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

"Since Friday, following the bombing in west Darfur, 12,000 people have crossed from Darfur to Chad in an area called Birak," said Helene Caux, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR.

"We expect more people to arrive. We have contacted some refugees by phone and they told us that the fighting in west Darfur on Friday and Saturday was very violent so we are just expecting more people to cross," she added.

'Many dead'

On Friday the Sudanese military confirmed it had bombed Sirba, Sileia and Abu Surouj.

Army spokesman Brig Osman Mohamed al-Aghbash said rebels had retreated to Chad "leaving behind a huge number of dead, wounded and equipment that is currently being counted".

Over the last few months, the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and the region has dramatically deteriorated
Jean-Marie Guehenno
UN mediator for Darfur

Human Rights Watch said 150 people had died during the raids.

The group said the return to large-scale attacks on villages showed that the Sudanese government had a total disregard for the safety of civilians.

"These dead - most of them are tribal leaders or teachers or people working for the state," a tribal leader from Abu Surouj, Yehia Mohamed Ulama, told Reuters news agency.

"Are these people rebels?"

Chad spillover

The head of a joint peacekeeping mission by the African Union and the UN called for both sides to show restraint.

The force is due to expand to 26,000 people this year, though currently just 9,000 peacekeepers are in place.

On Saturday, the government agreed to allow the force unrestricted movement, including night flights.

The flight of more refugees into Chad comes shortly after rebels there launched an attack against President Idriss Deby, throwing the country into turmoil.

Map of Darfur region

Sudan and Chad both accuse each other of harbouring rebel groups.

There is growing concern over how the interlinked situations in Chad and Darfur will develop over the next few weeks, the BBC's Amber Henshaw reports from Khartoum.

The UN's top political mediator for Darfur, Jean-Marie Guehenno said Friday's attacks represented a "very disturbing new spike in violence".

"Over the last few months, the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and the region has dramatically deteriorated, most recently through events related to Chad," he said.

At least 200,000 people are thought to have died in the fighting between Sudan's government, Arab militias and rebel groups that began some five years ago.

The government has denied links to the Janjaweed militia, accused of trying to "cleanse" the region of black Africans.

Sudan agreement over Darfur force
Police adviser from the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) with displaced families in the camp of ZamZam outside Fasher (12.01.2008) (Pic: Stuart Price, AFP/GETTY)
Only 9,000 of the planned 26,000 troops have been deployed
UN-led peacekeepers in Darfur are to be allowed full unrestricted movement in a deal agreed with Sudan's government.

It means Khartoum will permit night flights and full access across the western Sudanese province for the 9,000 joint UN-African Union troops there.

However, key non-African units are still not being allowed and two-thirds of the force have still to deploy.

At least 200,000 people have died and 2m been displaced in Darfur since the conflict began some five years ago.

The Darfur peacekeeping force is meant to be 26,000-strong later this year - which will make it the UN's largest force - and has faced a number of obstacles imposed by Sudan's government.

Framework

The Status of Forces Agreement setting out the legal framework for the mission to operate in Sudan was signed in Khartoum by Foreign Minister Deng Alor and peacekeeping head Rodolphe Adada.

Map of Darfur region

It allows free movement into and around the province for United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid) personnel, as well as easing restrictions in a number of areas including communications.

However, the force still lacks the attack helicopters it needs to move around the arid region, which is the size of France.

On Friday the UN special envoy to Darfur, Jan Eliasson, warned that the region was edging towards full-scale war after Sudan launched a big operation attacking rebels in two towns in West Darfur.

The five years of fighting have involved Sudan's government, pro-government Arab militias and a number of rebel groups.

The government denies links to the Janjaweed militia, which is accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from large swathes of territory.

Some two million people have been displaced in Darfur. Many have been accommodated in camps where the security is poor.

Profile: Idriss Deby
Idriss Deby (file photo)
President Deby has been accused of cronyism and political repression
Idriss Deby came to power in 1990 after toppling Chadian President Hissene Habre - with the help of the French secret service.

A shrewd tactician, Mr Deby had been President Habre's chief-of-staff, leading a series of victories over rebel forces in the 1980s and earning a reputation for courage and military prowess.

After six years in office, Mr Deby set up Chad's first multi-party political system and won elections that year.

He was re-elected in 2001, and again in 2006 after amending the constitution, which had previously limited the president to two terms in office.

But Mr Deby, 55, appeared to have little genuine domestic support.

His presidency was dogged by accusations of corruption and political repression, and the 2006 poll was boycotted by opponents who claimed it was neither free nor fair.

He packed his government and armed forces with members of his Zagawa clan, which comprised only 1.5% of the country's 10 million-plus population.

Critics say his single biggest failure was putting his clan before his country.

President Deby became known as a stubborn man who often ignored his advisors. From mid-2006 he suffered a spate of defections of former allies from his own clan to Darfur-based Chadian rebels.

Regionally he has been increasingly viewed with mistrust, and he fell out of favour with Chad's former colonial master France over drilling rights in the 1990s.

President Deby is also thought to have health problems and has been known to fly to Paris for treatment to his liver.

France watches Chad-Sudan border
French Mirage jet at airbase in Chad (November 2007)
French military aircraft have been patrolling the Chad-Sudan border to ensure there has been no interference in the fighting around N'Djamena.

France's defence minister said it wanted to monitor "any self-styled foreign intervention" in the fighting between Chad's government and rebels.

The government has accused Sudan of giving the rebel groups rear bases in Darfur, a charge which Khartoum denies.

Thousands have fled N'Djamena since the rebels launched an assault on Saturday.

Up to 20,000 people have crossed the river border with Cameroon in the past four days and arrived in the town of Kousseri, placing heavy strain on essential supplies and accommodation, the UN refugee agency has said.

[The rebels] don't exist any more - with whom would we sign a ceasefire?... We've got them under control
Delwa Kassire Coumakoye
Chadian Prime Minister

More than 3,000 other refugees have fled to Nigeria.

Earlier, the leader of the main UFDD rebel group said it was prepared to have a ceasefire in return for the promise of negotiations with the government, but the government dismissed the offer, saying it had already beaten the rebels.

A mediation mission from Libya and Congo-Brazzaville, appointed by the African Union with a brief to meet both sides, is due to arrive soon in the Chadian capital.

Reconnaissance

Speaking about the role of his country's 1,400 troops based in Chad, French Defence Minister Herve Morin stressed that the UN declaration on Monday calling on all countries to support the government had not changed the terms of engagement.

"What it does do is give international community support to the actions of France," he told Radio France Internationale. "It is also support for [President] Idriss Deby."

What we might well find out in the days ahead is just what the involvement of the Sudanese actually is
Herve Morin
French Defence Minister

 

"It is international community support for the integrity of Chad and support for the actions of France, actions that we've been carrying out for several days."

Mr Morin said that France did have a military agreement with Chad which provides for logistical, medical and training support, but "in no way is it a defence agreement... that would oblige France to intervene to protect the sovereignty of the country involved".

The French military could intervene if it was authorised to do so by a UN resolution, he added.

However, Mr Morin admitted that French fighter jets and reconnaissance planes had been flying over the border with Sudan over the past 36 hours in line with a request from President Nicolas Sarkozy to ensure there are no foreign incursions.

Map of Chad, Sudan and Darfur, showing Adre

 

"It enables us to monitor and verify any self-styled foreign interventions and to date we've seen nothing," he said.

"What is certain is that these rebel forces were over by the Sudanese border," he added. "What we might well find out in the days ahead is just what the involvement of the Sudanese actually is."

The violence in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and the cross-border fighting between Chad and Sudan has in recent years sent at least 400,000 people fleeing to refugee camps in eastern Chad.

A French-dominated European Union peacekeeping force had been due to start deploying to eastern Chad last week to give the refugees and aid workers there a measure of protection, but the latest rebel offensive began at the same time.

BBC world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says one theory is that Sudan encouraged the rebels to attack in order to stop the EU opening a window on Khartoum's activities in Darfur, where it has been accused of genocide.

Ceasefire 'offer'

Mr Morin's comments came as the leader of the largest rebel group, the United Force for Democracy and Development, told the BBC that it was prepared to agree to a ceasefire in return for the promise of talks with the government.

I telephoned my friend in N'Djamena and he told me that my mother, my father and my fiancee had all been shot - I don't know whether to cry or kill myself
"Mohammed", refugee

 

Mahamat Nouri said the ceasefire offer had been made by the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and the government of Burkina Faso.

But the Chadian Prime Minister, Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye, was dismissive of the offer.

"Why a ceasefire?" he told French TV station France 24.

"They don't exist any more. With whom would we sign a ceasefire?... We've got them under control."

The lull in the fighting around N'Djamena following the tripartite rebel alliance's recent withdrawal has prompted tens of thousands of Chadians to flee the country.

THE REBEL COALITION
Unified Military Command includes:
Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye

On Tuesday, "frightened people were still crossing in a continuous flow" from Chad into neighbouring Cameroon, said the UN's refugee agency in a news release.

Thousands have deluged Kousseri in Cameroon, the UNHCR said. While some have found refuge with relatives, in schools or hotels, it said, between 6,000 and 7,000 were staying out in the open at a transit centre near the bridge.

The UNHCR said it planned to move these people to an old campsite some 30km away which could hold up to 100,000 people and was equipped with wells.

Thousands flee fighting in Chad
French military vehicle passes burnt-out vehicle
French military vehicles are already in Chad
Thousands of people are fleeing the Chad capital, Ndjamena, after two days of fierce fighting between government and rebel forces in the city.

The government says it has pushed the rebels out of the city but they say they withdrew to give civilians the chance to evacuate.

Aid workers report that fighting is continuing outside the city, while dead bodies litter the streets.

The UN Security Council has urged member states to help the government.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN in New York says this non-binding statement gives the go-ahead to France and other countries to help President Idriss Deby's forces against the rebels.

CHAD TIMELINE
June 2005 - Constitutional changes approved allowing president to stand for third term
April 2006 - Hundreds killed as rebels fight government troops on outskirts of Ndjamena
May 2006 - President Deby wins election boycotted by opposition
January 2008 - EU approves peacekeeping force to protect Darfur refugees from violence in Chad

 

Chad's former colonial power France has a military base in Chad and has previously helped the government with logistics and intelligence.

Thousands of people have been streaming across the Ngueli bridge, which separates Chad from Cameroon.

Local officials have told the UN refugee agency that thousands were also crossing at the border town of Kousseri.

"We're expecting a lot more people coming," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond.

He also said he was extremely concerned for the 240,000 Darfur refugees in Chad.

A plane chartered by the French government carrying 363 foreigners evacuated from Chad arrived in Paris on Monday morning.

Others have gone to Gabon.

'Routed'

France's UN ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said it was too early to say whether France would provide military to the government.

"I guess there will be some request from the government of Chad addressed to some member states or to all member states of the UN and we'll see," he said, the Associated Press news agency reported.

map

 
"What is important is that the Security Council allows the member states to do so and to answer the request for help and assistance of Chad."

The rebels have previously threatened to attack a French-dominated European Union peacekeeping force, because of France's support to the government.

The deployment of that force has been delayed because of the latest fighting.

General Mahamat Ali Abdallah, who is commanding the government forces, said the rebels had been "completely routed".

But rebel spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah rejected this.

"We have pulled out of the city and we are waiting for the civilian population to be evacuated," he told AFP news agency.

"We certainly will go back on the offensive... We're asking the civilian population of Ndjamena to leave immediately because their safety cannot be assured."

'Window on genocide'

The army has also said it had thwarted a second rebel attack on the town of Adre, near the border with Sudan over the weekend.

This is where the refugees from Darfur are based, living in camps and where the EU force is due to deploy.

The EU force is intended to protect refugees from the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan, as well as aid workers.

THE REBEL COALITION
Unified Military Command includes:
Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye
Chad accuses the Sudanese government of backing the rebel offensive in Chad in order to stop the EU force from being sent to the region.

"Sudan does not want this force because it would open a window on the genocide in Darfur," said Foreign Minister Amad Allam-Mi.

Sudan denies this, as well as accusations that it has supported Arab militias accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Darfur.

Chadian rebels seized control of large parts of the capital on Saturday, approaching the palace where President Deby was holding out.

Mr Deby seized power in a coup in 1990, but has won three elections since then, although their legitimacy has been challenged.

Chad rebels pushed from capital
Car and French tank in aftermath of fighting in N'Djamena, Chad
Witnesses reported heavy fighting in the capital on Sunday
Rebels seeking to overthrow Chad's president have been driven out of the capital, the government has said.

The rebels say they have made a strategic withdrawal to the eastern edge of N'Djamena, after entering the city over the weekend.

Aid workers say dead bodies litter the streets, while thousands of people are fleeing the city.

The European Union has decided to delay the deployment of its peacekeeping force to Chad because of the unrest.

N'Djamena is separated from Cameroon by a bridge over the Logone-Chari river.

Thousands of people were streaming over the bridge, UNHCR spokeswoman Helene Caux told the AFP news agency.

The UN called an emergency meeting in New York to discuss the crisis and will meet again on Monday.

CHAD TIMELINE
June 2005 - Constitutional changes approved allowing president to stand for third term
April 2006 - Hundreds killed as rebels fight government troops on outskirts of N'Djamena
May 2006 - President Deby wins election boycotted by opposition
January 2008 - EU approves peacekeeping force to protect Darfur refugees from violence in Chad

 

Before the meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire.

A statement from his office expressed concern at the "serious humanitarian situation of some 285,000 refugees and 180,000 internally displaced persons, as well as host communities, in eastern Chad".

The Chadian government said it had quashed the rebellion.

"The whole of N'Djamena is under control and these mercenaries in the pay of Sudan have been scattered," Interior Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir told French radio RFI.

But rebel leaders said they were giving civilians a chance to flee before launching another offensive.

In eastern Chad, the army said it had thwarted a second rebel attack on the town of Adre, near the border with Sudan.

Darfur fears

The area is home to some 400,000 people displaced as a result of the conflict in Darfur are living in camps.

Adre is in the area where a French-dominated EU peacekeeping force is due to deploy to protect displaced civilians and the aid workers supporting them.

map

 

Chadian officials have accused the rebels of seeking to stop the deployment of the EU force.

The government claimed the assault on the town had been backed by Sudanese aircraft.

Chad's Minister for Mines and Energy, General Mahamat Ali Abdallah Nassour, called the attack a "declaration of war" by Sudan.

"Sudan does not want this force because it would open a window on the genocide in Darfur," said Foreign Minister Amad Allam-Mi.

Sudan has repeatedly denied any involvement.

"Any developments in Chad reflect on Sudan and any instability there would have a negative impact on Sudan," said Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadeq.

Looters

Chadian rebels seized control of large parts of the capital on Saturday, approaching the palace where President Idriss Deby was holding out.

On Sunday, fierce fighting in the capital continued. Rebels were reported to have stormed the national radio offices before looters ransacked the building.

N'Djamena's main market was also looted and torched after being hit by a missile, witnesses told AFP news agency.

THE REBEL COALITION
Unified Military Command includes:
Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye

Hundreds of foreigners, many of them French, have been evacuated to Gabon in central Africa.

France has a long-term military presence in Chad, one of its former colonies, giving the government intelligence and logistic support.

This has led the rebels to threaten to attack the EU peacekeeping force.

China, a major investor in Chad's growing oil industry, also evacuated 210 of its citizens and two Taiwanese, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr Deby seized power in a coup in 1990, but has won three elections since then, although their legitimacy has been challenged.

Chad troops battle against rebels
Car and French tank in aftermath of fighting in N'Djamena, Chad
Both sides claim to have the upper hand in the fightingended

 
Chadian forces have used tanks and helicopter gunships to try to drive back rebels besieging the presidential palace in the capital N'Djamena.

Aid agency MSF told the BBC there were "a lot of dead bodies" in the city, and 300 people being treated in hospitals.

The rebels, who want to overthrow President Idriss Deby, seized large parts of the city on Saturday.

Correspondents say the crisis could have major implications for efforts to end the conflict in Darfur.


 
Witnesses heard anti-tank and automatic weapons fire coming from the city centre, starting at about 0500 local time (0400 GMT) on Sunday.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin said President Deby, who is believed to be inside the palace, still had 2,000 to 3,000 men under his authority, despite rebel claims that government troops were defecting.

A spokesman for the rebels said they had also taken the eastern town of Adre, near the border with Sudan, an area where some 400,000 people displaced as a result of the conflict in Darfur are living in camps.

CHAD TIMELINE
June 2005 - Constitutional changes approved allowing president to stand for third term
April 2006 - Hundreds killed as rebels fight government troops on outskirts of N'Djamena
May 2006 - President Deby wins election boycotted by opposition
January 2008 - EU approves peacekeeping force to protect Darfur refugees from violence in Chad

 
But the government said it had beaten back that attack, and claimed the assault had been backed by Sudanese aircraft.

Sudan has denied it is involved in any of the fighting in Chad.

Correspondents say Sudan is known to have supported rebels in Chad in the past - while Chad has backed rebels in the Sudanese province of Darfur.

Adre is in the area where a French-dominated EU peacekeeping force is due to deploy to protect displaced civilians and the aid workers supporting them.

Chadian officials have accused the rebels of seeking to stop the deployment of the EU force.

Map of Chad, Sudan and Darfur, showing Adre

 

In other developments:

  • More than 500 French and other foreign citizens have been evacuated to the Gabonese capital, Libreville, with another 400 gathered in designated area in N'Djamena, awaiting airlift.

     

  • President Deby refused a French offer to evacuate him, French officials told AFP.

     

  • The French military said several of its combat planes had been moved out of N'Djamena for safety, although they had earlier been seen overflying the area.

    France has a long-term military presence in Chad, one of its former colonies, giving the government intelligence and logistic support.

    Troubled rule

    Mr Deby seized power in a coup in 1990, but has won three elections since then, although their legitimacy has been challenged.

    THE REBEL COALITION
    Unified Military Command includes:
    Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
    Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
    UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye

     
    The BBC's Stephanie Hancock, recently based in Chad, says the tide began to turn against him after his decision in 2005 to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in office.

    Tensions with Sudan have also been heightened over the conflict in Darfur.

    Sudan's government and pro-government Arab militias are accused of war crimes against the region's black African population.

    Some 2m people have fled their homes, including an estimated 200,000 who have sought safety in Chad - many living in camps along the border with Sudan.

    Aid agencies fear the fighting could disrupt $300m aid operation supporting millions in Chad.

  • Battle for control of Chad palace
    French soldiers in Ndjamena, 2 February 2008
    French soldiers are helping with the evacuation of French citizens
    Rebels in Chad have seized control of large parts of the capital N'Djamena, and say they have surrounded the presidential palace.

    But Chad's ambassador to Ethiopia said the city had not fallen and President Idriss Deby was "fine" in his palace.

    There are unconfirmed reports from Libya that rebels have agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Colonel Gaddafi.

    On Saturday evening, France, which has 1,500 troops in Chad, began evacuating some foreign nationals.

    The French foreign ministry has condemned the rebel attack, blaming "armed forces from outside".

    Both the Chadian and Sudanese governments support rebels in each others' territory.



     
    Abderamane Khoulamala, a spokesman for the rebels, told the BBC the rebels had "virtually taken power" and government troops were "refusing to fight".

    But a French military spokesman, Col Thierry Burkhard, told AP news agency it appeared that Mr Deby had succeeded in containing the rebels at his palace and was "even in the process of pushing them back".

    Looting

    There was heavy fighting throughout Saturday after thousands of rebels entered N'Djamena in the morning, after beginning their advance on the city from near Chad's eastern border with Sudan earlier this week .

    Intense gunfire was heard in the city centre. A witness told the BBC that 30 army tanks were burning in the streets.

    There were reports of outbreaks of looting, and of residents cheering on the rebel forces in some areas of the city.

    Chadian President Idriss Deby (file pic)
    President Deby sparked anger by changing the constitution

    A bomb hit the residence of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Chad, killing the wife and daughter of an embassy employee, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

    But witnesses report that as night fell the fighting subsided, with just sporadic gunfire now being heard.

    Gabriel Stauring, a US aid worker trapped inside a hotel in the centre of N'Djamena, told the BBC news website that he and the other guests were spending the night together in the hotel's dining room.

    He said that some people had already been evacuated, but that he had been advised by the US embassy to remain in the hotel until morning.

    He said that there had been a heavy attack on the building earlier in the afternoon, but that it has been relatively quiet since.

    Ceasefire claim

    The Libyan news agency said that rebel leader Mahamat Nouri had agreed to a ceasefire brokered by the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

    The African Union has charged Libya with overseeing the response to the rebellion in Chad, which was condemned at the end of the organisation's summit in Ethiopia.

    CHAD TIMELINE
    June 2005 - Constitutional changes approved allowing president to stand for third term
    April 2006 - Hundreds killed as rebels fight government troops on outskirts of N'Djamena
    May 2006 - President Deby wins election boycotted by opposition
    January 2008 - EU approves peacekeeping force to protect Darfur refugees from violence in Chad

     

    The Union's new head, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, warned that if the rebellion succeeded, the country would be suspended from the AU until normality was restored.

    The BBC's Stephanie Hancock, recently based in Chad, says insecurity has been the hallmark of Mr Deby's 17-year rule.

    In 2005, he changed the constitution so that he could run for a third term in office, which sparked mass desertions from the army.

    The situation was made worse by the accumulation of oil wealth by Mr Deby and his entourage.

    Friction with Sudan

    There is also tension with Sudan. Chadian officials say Khartoum is nervous about the deployment of EU troops in Chad and a joint AU/UN force in Sudan's western region of Darfur - both with the mandate of protecting civilians affected by fighting in Darfur.

    France dominates the EU force bound for Chad, whose deployment has been delayed because of the fighting.

    Some 100 troops Austrian and Irish troops had been due to arrive last Thursday.

    THE REBEL COALITION
    Unified Military Command includes:
    Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
    Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
    UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye

     
    Under a 30-year-old agreement, the French military gives logistical and intelligence support to Chad's government.

    But late last year, one of the rebel groups, the UFDD, declared a "state of war" against French and other foreign forces because it said they were "bringing diplomatic, strategic and logistical aid" to the president.

    Chad's Foreign Ministers Ahmat Allami has accused Sudan of instigating the rebel advance in order to stop the deployment of the EU force:

    "Sudan does not want this force because it would shine a light on all the genocide that is taking place in Darfur orchestrated from Chadian territory," he told the BBC.

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