February 5, 2008 in Nation/World

Citizens flee as fighting in Chad wanes – for now

Edmund Sanders Los Angeles Times

U.S. Embassy abandoned

The United States has abandoned its embassy in Chad, evacuating all but four diplomats who are now stationed at the N’Djamena airport amid heavy fighting between government forces and rebels in the capital. The downtown embassy was hit by fire during weekend clashes.

Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya – Thousands of frightened Chadians took advantage of a lull in fighting Monday to flee N’Djamena when rebels withdrew from the capital after two days of heavy clashes with government troops.

Officials, however, warned that battles probably were not over and that rebel leaders vowed to attack again.

“Rebels still have a capability of fighting,” said Capt. Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for the French Ministry of Defense, which has 1,900 troops deployed in the central African country and has evacuated nearly 1,000 foreigners. “They announced they were leaving to reorganize their forces. They’re not far from town, so things may change rapidly.”

At the United Nations on Monday, the Security Council tacitly opened the door to military intervention by France and other countries, with a unanimous condemnation of the rebels’ attempt to seize power by force and a call for nations to help Chad’s government end the violence.

The nonbinding statement also backed efforts by leaders from Libya and the Republic of Congo to try to broker a peace deal. The U.S. State Department and African Union also have criticized the assault as unconstitutional.

Humanitarian officials estimated at least 500 civilians have been wounded during the past two days of fighting, most of them caught in the crossfire.

More than 1,000 rebels penetrated the capital Saturday, facing off against government troops. It was Chad’s third coup attempt in three years.

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