Fighting spreads as Chad rebels seek to topple president

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Fighting spreads as Chad rebels seek to topple president

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There has been fresh fighting in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, where rebels are trying to overthrow President Idriss Deby. For the second successive day, there have been reports of exchanges of heavy weapons and machine gun fire near the Presidential palace.

The rebels are also said to have opened up a second front in the city of Adre. Rebels seized large parts of the capital on Saturday, but military action subsided overnight as both sides claimed to be in control.

The lull allowed French troops to start evacuating some 500 foreigners from N’Djamena to Libreville in Gabon. Another 400 are expected to be flown out later.

Libya’s Colonel Ghaddafi claimed to have negotiated an end to the fighting, but rebels say they have been holding back to allow President Deby to leave.

But at least two government ministers say Deby, himself a former rebel, is remaining inside the palace to lead loyal troops.

France, the country’s former colonial power, has ruled out expanding its military mission.

Defence Minister Herve Morin says France’s agreement with Chad does not allow it to intervene in internal conflicts – but he condemned the violence.

The instability in Chad has delayed the arrival of a four thousand strong EU peacekeeping force, charged with protecting refugees from Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.