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Chad Rebels Move; Government Accuses Sudan and Peacekeepers

Rebels in Chad say they are taking more towns in the east of the country, while the government is accusing Sudan's army of attacking a border town. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Rebels said they seized the town of Am Zoer recently, while capturing the chief of the town garrison and taking a small cannon.

Am Zoer is on the road to the main eastern city of Abeche. Rebels say they are marching to the capital N'Djamena.

But unlike earlier this year, when they almost toppled President Idriss Deby, security analyst Paul-Simon Handy does not believe the threat from this new offensive is as grave.

"We should not overestimate these new seizures of provincial towns in eastern Chad," he said. "It is more to my point of view a publicity success, than real military success."

Handy, from the South African-based Institute for Security Studies, says divisions within the rebel movements make it unlikely the rebels will again reach the doorstep of the presidential palace.

"I think the biggest difference is that today the rebels seem less united than they were in February because the new rebel groups, there are new groups emerging, even though it is the same actors," he said. "There are new movements that have been emerging and that are not united. They are extremely divided so that is the first difference. And the French intelligence is giving support to the Chadian army. I think this time the rebels cannot make it to N'Djamena. They will certainly be stopped by airstrikes of the Chadian army."

Chad's government has accused Sudan of attacking the border town of Ade with ground troops and helicopter fire. A statement said its reaction will be on the level of, what it called, the impudence of the Sudanese regime.

Sudan has denied backing the Chadian rebels or attacking Chadian territory.

Chad's army is accused for its part in helping and getting help from rebels active in Sudan's Darfur conflict. Repeated mediation attempts between the two governments and different rebel groups have failed.

The latest surge of violence is taking place as European peacekeepers are deployed on the Chadian side of the border to protect hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people.

Chad's president has accused the peacekeepers of allowing rebels to steal gas, food and vehicles from aid workers in the area. The peacekeepers have said there were no civilian casualties in the recent fighting. They say they are a neutral peacekeeping force.

France, the former colonial power, has soldiers in the European peacekeeping force and on a permanent military base in N'Djamena, as part of post-colonial military agreements. They have been accused by Chadian rebels of keeping Mr. Deby in power.

Rebels say they want to get rid of the long-standing president to organize free and fair elections in the newly oil-rich state.