In France the Defence Ministry has confirmed that French Foreign Legionnaires and paratroopers in Chad have smashed a large force of Libyan-backed rebels threatening the capital, N'Djamena.
In France the Defence Ministry has confirmed that French Foreign Legionnaires and paratroopers in Chad have smashed a large force of Libyan-backed rebels threatening the capital, N'Djamena. Ministry of Defence officials in Paris said that between 200 and 300 French troops took part in the battle around the strategic central town of Ati on Wednesday (31 May) and Thursday (1 June).
SYNOPSIS: Since April there has been a steady build-up of France's military presence in Chad in support of the military government of President Felix Malloum. The French troops went into action last week at the request of General Malloum's government, which has become increasingly threatened by Chad Liberation Front (FROLINAT) guerrillas pushing south. The guerrillas are reported to be in control of more than two thirds of Chad, one of the world's poorest countries.
The Chad Defence Ministry said that weapons seized from the rebels in the attack included two Sam-7 ground-to-air missiles and three anti-tank rocket launchers. The ministry said the weapons were of Soviet and Rumanian origin. The Chad Liberation Front office in Paris said rebel missiles had accounted for two French Jaguar strike aircraft and a French Jaguar strike aircraft and a French Boeing fuel transport plane. The French have reported losing one Jaguar and it is thought this could be the wreckage of the missing plane. However French officials refuse to comment on the Frolinat claim.
The French Defence officials said there were no casualties among French troops in the battle and denied a claim by Frolinat leaders that 58 French soldiers were killed. A Defence Ministry statement said its troops went into action when a column of Frolinat rebels was sighted in the Ati region, 300 kilometres (180 miles) north-east of the capital of N'Djamena.
As French and Chat forces regrouped in Djadah the Minister for Co-operation in France, M. Robert Galley, said the French units had reacted defensively in the face of the threat by Frolinat rebels. He said the rebels' position astride the main road to N'Djamena violated a ceasefire agreement concluded last March between Frolinat, its Libyan backers, and the Chad Government. In mid-April the agreement was broken by the Frolinat and since then France has moved 1,200 extra troops to Chad where 500 military advisers were already reorganising the country's small army.