The commander of the European Union peacekeeping mission to Chad and the Central African Republic has warned rebel groups in the region not to interfere with EU troops.
Irish General Patrick Nash told reporters Tuesday that his troops will not take sides in fighting between rebel and government forces.
He said the peacekeepers will pay no attention to the rebels as long as they do not interfere with the EU mission to protect refugees and aid workers in the region.
But when asked if EU troops would fire back if attacked, Nash gave a one-word answer: "yes."
EU foreign ministers gave final approval to send 3,700 troops to Chad and the C.A.R. on Monday. EU officials say the first troops could be in place within weeks.
General Nash will lead the operation and France is expected to provide the majority of troops.
The U.N. refugee agency runs camps in eastern Chad housing more than 230,000 Darfur refugees and 180,000 displaced Chadians.
The agency has expressed concern about security in the area, which sees periodic battles between the Chadian army and rebels, in addition to spillovers of violence from western Darfur.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.