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Military Deploys in Chad Capital After Increased Rebel Activity


Military vehicles are securing Chad's capital N'Djamena after several days of rebel activity and looting in the eastern and central parts of the country. Humanitarian groups say food warehouses in one eastern town were looted during the unrest. Meanwhile, Chadian officials are accusing the rebel groups of being linked to Islamic extremism. Jordan Davis files this report from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Officials in N'Djamena say publicly they are confident rebels will not reach the capital, but armored vehicles have been seen securing strategic locations in and around the city.

Local reporter Adbangolo Moustafha says soldiers refused to allow workers into a building housing a number of government ministries.

Rebels were spotted as recently as Sunday in the country's central Batha province. French embassy officials initially said the rebel column was headed for the capital, but have since said the convoy is no longer advancing.

Last April, a rebel advance was stopped on the city's outskirts.

In the country's east, Chadian government troops retook control of the city of Abeche Sunday. The city had been taken over by rebels with the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development.

Makaila Nguebla, an exiled spokesman for the rebels in Dakar, says their forces left the town in order to move on to other cities in the region and wear out the Chadian army.

Nguebla also denied government claims that the group was linked to Islamic extremists and received funding from Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

The Chadian government has long accused Sudan of trying to destabilize the country by backing the rebels, charges categorically denied by officials in Khartoum.

Nguebla called the accusations a ploy to draw international support.

Humanitarian groups in Abeche meanwhile are cleaning up after their warehouses were looted Saturday.

Many aid agencies helping the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Sudan's Darfur region operate from the city.

Marcus Prior with the United Nation's World Food Program in N'Djamena says it is unclear whether looters were rebels or townspeople. But he says over 400 tons of food were taken

"Cereals, sugar, oil, dried skim milk. It's not all the food that we have in Abeche but it's a very substantial part," he said.

Despite the looting, the WFP says it has sufficient food to meet its needs for the next several months.

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