Refugees return to Chad as Déby says he is in control

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Refugees return to Chad as Déby says he is in control

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Police officers with megaphones have been used to reassure residents of the capital of Chad that it is safe to return. Tens of thousands fled into neighbouring Cameroon at the weekend to escape clashes between government troops and rebel fighters.

Now, crammed into cars and carrying anything they can, they are flocking back across the border. The rebels say they have withdrawn from N’Djamena but are regrouping ahead of a second assault.

But speaking for the first time since the crisis began, President Idriss Déby claimed his government was in control.

Separately, after talks with French officials, he said he could consider pardoning the six “Zoe’s Ark” charity workers jailed by Chad for child abduction if France requested it.

France’s Defence Minister Hervé Morin had earlier arrived in Chad as a show of support for his country’s former colony.

Paris, which has more than 1,000 troops based there, had initially said it was neutral but later threw its weight behind Déby and his administration.

The three days of fighting have left much of N’Djamena a wasteland of battle-scarred buildings and burnt out vehicles.

Aid agencies estimate at least 100 civilians died and more than 700 were injured in the confrontations.