Confusion surrounds reports that rebel forces in Chad have battled there way into the capital, N’Djamena. After a three day advance, French military sources say groups of rebels entered the city and are close to the presidential palace.
But a Chadian minister has denied this, claiming that government troops are still in control. Speaking to French media, State minister Abdallah Nassour said he was in the presidential palace and President Idriss Deby was directing operations.
Whatever the real situation on the ground, African Union leaders meeting in Ethiopia say they are “extremely concerned.”
They have threatened to kick Chad out of the 53-nation body if the rebels take over. Former colonial power France is worried too and has told its citizens to prepare for evacuation.
About 150 French troops have arrived to help evacuate some 1,500 expatriates, the vast majority of whom live in N’Djamena.
The violence has delayed the arrival of a 4,000 strong EU peacekeeping force which is due in eastern Chad to protect civilians and aid workers caught up in violence spilling over from the neighbouring Sudanese region of Darfur.
Authorities in Chad accuse Sudan of arming and backing the rebels who are trying to take control of the capital in a bid to block the deployment of the EU force.