- Title: CHAD: Chad's army fights cat-and-mouse war in desert east
- Date: 9th February 2007
- Summary: BURNED CARS (SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED REFUGEE, SAYING: "Before, I was in Sudan. The war made me run away and enter Chad territory with all my belongings and my family. We came to Chad to get rid of the war. But they came again and burned everything, all that I have left is the clothes I have on me." BAFAALLAH 'S NEIGHBOUR'S COURTYARD WITH PEOPLE LOOKING AT BURNED MILL WOMEN WATCHING OVER COURTYARD WALL PIECES OF SHRAPNEL (BOMB FRAGMENTS) IN COURTYARD (SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) MADINA AHMAT SAYING: "Two goats were also burnt, we have thrown them away, and also a horse was burnt. There is also other materials on the other side which were burnt. Around 10 sacks of mullet was burnt, turned into flour, we threw everything away."
- Embargoed: 24th February 2007 12:00
- Location: Chad
- Country: Chad
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVAC1KVEA4TAQE14PJKIA7RYF1IR
- Story Text: Morale is high amongst these government soldiers in their defensive position in the eastern Chad town of Adre. Even so, some fighters cover themselves in lucky charms while others load rockets onto pick-up trucks in preparation for another clash with rebels in the desolate scrubland along Chad's eastern border with Sudan.
Adre, a border town on the main route into Sudan's Darfur region, has recently had to repulse a string of attacks by Chadian rebels which they say were launched from Sudanese territory.
Residents say the army was aided during the most recent rebel assault by a group known as the Tora Bora, Sudanese fighters long famed as arms smugglers operating along Sudan's borders with Chad and Central African Republic.
Wearing lucky charms, or gris-gris -- small leather pouches fastened with string around their necks, arms and waist -- the Tora Bora are an imposing sight, some with their hair in dreadlocks, others wearing military uniform.
Drinking tea, polishing their weapons, or loading rockets on to their trucks, all are playing a waiting game.
The raids were the latest in a series along a more than 400-km (250-mile) long stretch of border launched by insurgents fighting to overthrow President Idriss Deby. More than a dozen civilians were killed in the fighting.
Local resident Wadi Bafaallah said that if the rebels had been intent on helping the local population, they would not have killed local civilians.
"As soon as they arrived here they dispersed in the houses and they were shooting in town. The Chadian army was outside the town. Their (the rebels') intention wasn't to take over (govern) the place but to kill the population. If someone wants to take the power, they would fight their enemy, but not kill the (local) population. These people don't want to govern," he said.
Chad's border with Sudan, a desolate expanse of parched earth and dusty scrub, was already desperately poor and prone to banditry even before conflict in Darfur destabilised it further.
The region is home to 230,000 Sudanese refugees as well as 110,000 internally displaced Chadians and 46,000 refugees from Central African Republic to the south, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
The UHCR said recently that rampant insecurity along Chad's eastern border with Darfur is hampering efforts to aid hundreds of thousands of refugees, underlining the need for international peacekeepers.
Civilians in border towns like Adre are exposed to random raids in a cat-and-mouse war in which the rebel strategy appears to be lightning surprise assaults and equally rapid retreats, aimed at throwing the Chadian army off guard.
A local villager Madina Ahmat explained what happened to family property in the latest attack: "Two goats were also burnt, we have thrown them away, and also a horse was burnt. There is also other materials on the other side which were burnt. Around 10 sacks of mullet was burnt, turned into flour, we threw everything away."
Two tanks and BM-21s, Soviet-made heavy trucks mounted with multiple rocket launchers, stand on a small hill on the outskirts of Adre, ready to defend the town if the rebels launch another bid to capture it.
Deby's government has repeatedly accused Sudan of backing the rebels, including by allowing them to strike from Sudanese territory, as part of a widening campaign of regional destabilisation. Khartoum denies the charge.
Defying international pressure, neighbouring Sudan is refusing to allow the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in conflict since 2003.
The world body is also looking to send troops to Chad and Central African Republic to secure their borders with Darfur. A team sent by the U.N. Security Council is visiting the region to evaluate whether to deploy a mission.
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