Chad rebels fight army near Sudan

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The Independent Online

Soldiers killed several hundred rebels in fighting Monday in eastern Chad, the country's army said in a statement — a deadly reminder of the difficulties a proposed European force for the region might face.

The battles at Abougouleigne, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of the town of Abeche, left "several hundred (rebels) dead, several injured and several prisoners of war" taken into military custody, according to the statement from the general staff.

"The fighting lasted four hours and ended in the total and definite annihilation of this column" of rebels, said the statement, read by an unidentified officer on state radio and television.

The officer said soldiers also destroyed 50 vehicles and seized another 40 belonging to the rebel group — the Union of Forces for Development and Democracy. The group could not immediately be reached for comment about the clashes.

The army statement did not say if any Chadian soldiers were killed or injured.

Chad has struggled in the face of several rebellions in the east, with some insurgents saying President Idriss Deby has not provided enough support to their kinsmen in the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan.

Last month, four Chadian rebel groups signed a peace deal in Libya with Deby's government. But the Union of Forces for Development and Democracy said last week it was unsatisfied with the pace of implementing the agreements, and then clashed with government forces over the weekend. No information was immediately available about casualties from the weekend clashes.

UN officials estimate that around 3 million people have been uprooted by conflicts in the region, also including the fighting in western Sudan's Darfur region and unrelated rebellions in Chad and Central African Republic.

Aid workers say both rebels and the government have visited refugee camps to recruit children into their forces.

The European Union has offered to send a 3,700-strong force to Chad and Central Africa Republic to help protect refugees displaced from the four-year conflict in neighboring Darfur. Deployment of the EU troops has been held up, however, over a lack of air transportation, as well as medical and logistical units.

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