Chad targets rebels with air strikes

Chad says it has carried out air strikes on rebels in the east of the country and had made preparations aimed at preempting any further advances by them.
Chad accused neighbouring Sudan this week of sending armed groups into the east of the country, Reuters says.
Khartoum denied the accusation but Chad’s Interior Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir repeated the assertion on Wednesday and said its forces had targeted Sudan-backed rebels in the town of Goz-beida, some 200 km (125 miles) south of Abeche in the east.
“These mercenaries are swarming around this town,” Bachir said in a statement.
“They have been tracked down by our forces and dealt with by our aircraft,” he said, adding: “All preparations have been taken to ensure there is no (rebel) advance.”
The statement gave no details on how many rebels had been targeted, nor on the timing or outcome of the strikes.
The tensions come after the two oil-producing neighbors on Monday struck a deal to halt violence and refrain from using force to resolve their conflicts. Both have long accused each other of supporting insurgent groups inside their territories.
Chad and Sudan resumed shaky diplomatic ties in November after cutting them in May. Khartoum had accused Chadian President Idriss Deby of involvement in an attack on the Sudanese capital by Darfur rebels on May 11, 2008.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged Chad and Sudan to bridge their differences peacefully and called on all states in the region to prevent their territories and nationals from being used to help armed groups.
In a statement issued in New York, he also called on all parties to keep their forces away from aid operations protected by the newly created UN peacekeeping force in Chad. The force would protect civilians threatened by armed men, he said.
France’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was following events in the east of its former colony with “great concern.”

Pic: Chadian rebels, photographed Feb 2008.