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Chad Forces Repel 2nd Coup Bid in a Month

The attack bolsters fears that the government is being undermined by the civil war in Sudan.

April 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

N'DJAMENA, Chad — Government forces used attack helicopters, tanks and heavy weapons Thursday to repel rebels who had charged 600 miles in pickup trucks from the Sudanese border to reach the capital of this volatile nation in the center of Africa.

Four tanks guarded the presidential palace Thursday night. Reporters saw 13 bodies in the streets, and residents reported many more. Gen. Mahamet Ali Abdullah, speaking on state-run radio, said that government forces had killed hundreds of rebels.

The assault underscored concerns that the civil war in the Darfur region of western Sudan had undermined Chadian President Idriss Deby's authority and destabilized the entire region. It also showed how little control Deby wields in the desert countryside, where rebels travel at will.

Deby blamed Sudan's government for backing the rebels in Chad, where more than 200,000 refugees from Darfur have fled. Sudan denies the charge and accuses Chad of backing a different rebel group in Darfur.

Deby said his soldiers repelled the second attempt to overthrow him in a month, but few in Chad believed the fighting to be over. Residents of outlying neighborhoods who felt the brunt of the attack moved to the center of N'Djamena late in the day, expecting another offensive.

In just three days, the rebel United Front for Change made the journey from its bases on the border with Darfur and came close to capturing the National Assembly building in N'Djamena.

Government troops pushed them back and were holding 20 rebel prisoners on the grounds of the assembly building in the city's center.

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