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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Rebels shoot down Chadian military plane

By HALIME ASSADYA ALI Associated Press Writer

N'DJAMENA, Chad — A Chadian military reconnaissance plane was shot down in eastern Chad on Tuesday, a government spokesman said, and a rebel group claimed responsibility. A government spokesman blamed neighboring Sudan for backing the rebels and said it was "a state of war."

The plane was downed in Chad's volatile east, close to the Sudanese border, government spokesman Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said at a news conference. He did not provide other details.

"Today we are in a state of war with forces from Sudan," he said. "We consider ourselves under attack by Sudan."

An opposition Web site quoted rebel spokesman Ali Izzo as saying rebels had shot down a plane and a helicopter using surface-to-air missiles. The account could not immediately be confirmed.

On Oct. 24, someone fired a surface-to-air missile at a French reconnaissance jet, part of a military mission in support of the Chadian government, but the weapon missed its target.

Doumgor told journalists that in response to Tuesday's downing of a plane that "the state of emergency will be reinforced and the military put on the highest alert."

He said the United Nations and African Union should do all that is possible to evacuate Sudanese refugees who are in camps near the border, which he called havens for "the forces of aggression."

Doumgor claimed some refugees were working for the Sudanese government, trying to destabilize Chad. He also repeated allegations made a day earlier that Saudi Arabia finances and supplies the rebels in order to establish a militant form of Islam in Chad.

In the eastern town of Abeche, meanwhile, some 60 miles west of the airplane attack, Chadian troops went door-to-door Tuesday, shooting open locks and searching for looted goods.

Rebel fighters stormed and briefly held Abeche Saturday, and civilians ransacked U.N. warehouses and government buildings, including the governor's residence. The rebels withdrew Sunday, and government troops retook the city.

Provincial Gov. Mahamat Nimir Hamata said a courthouse in Abeche, an office of the national bank, a cigarette factory, the repair shop where the U.N. keeps spare parts, and the state archives were also stripped of goods and furnishings.

Under pressure from government troops, residents made piles of stolen goods in the street, including tires, tables, mattresses and satellite television dishes.

Heavily armed soldiers in pickup trucks later patrolled Abeche's mostly deserted streets. Most shops were closed.

Most civilians were too frightened to speak to journalists, and those who did demanded anonymity for their personal safety.

The U.N. said looters plundered around $1.5 million worth of relief supplies. The U.N. and other agencies based in Abeche deliver aid to 218,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur, which neighbors eastern Chad, and some 90,000 internally displaced Chadians.

The U.N. refugee agency said the looting and the volatile security situation had hampered relief efforts. The agency has reduced monitoring close to the Sudanese border and some U.N. staff were leaving for safe areas, the U.N. statement said.

French troops, who have a base in the area 550 miles east of the capital, N'djamena, deployed to protect Abeche's airport and some 150 foreigners sought refuge in an aircraft hanger there.

About 50 foreigners and a few Chadians boarded two French military planes for evacuation flights to the capital.

Both France and Britain have cautioned their citizens not to travel to Chad and France bolstered its presence in Chad with 100 additional troops, a supply plane and a reconnaissance plane, a military official said Tuesday. The reinforcement brings the total French troops there to 1,200.

President Idriss Deby, who first took power at the head of his own rebel army in 1990, is unpopular in the region.

Rebels bent on toppling Deby have clashed sporadically with the government since 2005. The competition for power has become more intense since Chad began exporting oil in 2004.

The rebels have been able to exploit volatility in neighboring Sudan, establishing rear bases in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

Besides the rebellion, Chad's government has in recent weeks reported outbreaks of violence pitting ethnic Arab Chadians against ethnic African Chadians. The pattern mirrors the Arab-African clashes in Darfur, and Chad has accused Sudan of inciting ethnic unrest.

Sudan, in turn, alleges that Chad supports Sudanese rebels.

This is a repost from Causes of Interest in case this article's link moves and is no longer available to my readers.

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