Mystery armed groups attack military camp in capital

Chadian authorities on Tuesday insisted they had the situation under control a day after attacks on military camps in and outside the capital, N’djamena, that left at least two of the gunmen dead and 15 under arrest.

“The city is calm. People have returned to work as normal,” Communications Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor told IRIN from the capital.

In the early hours of Monday, a score of armed men in civilian dress attacked an army training centre about 25 kilometres south of N’djamena, while a dozen assailants staged an attack against the National Guard and Nomad Camp in the capital, the government announced Monday evening.

In the attack outside N'djamena government forces killed two men and detained four. "The rest were able to flee with some arms," the 14 November communique said.

Describing the attack in N’djamena, the communique said: “Twelve men, with the complicity of the national guard, tried to break into an arms depot and the chief of staff's office.”

The government said it has been monitoring a group of would-be insurgents for some time.

“A network for recruiting combatants in N’djamena and in the south has been identified and has been monitored for several weeks,” the statement said, adding that some involved are “well-known” by government security and information officials.

Doumgor said an investigation into Monday’s attacks was underway.

Tensions have been high in Chad since scores of soldiers deserted their posts in N’djamena last month and fled east.

And days after the desertions, President Idriss Deby dissolved his presidential guard in a move some analysts said signalled a desperate bid to save his administration.

Deby - who seized power in a 1990 coup and was elected in 1996 and 2001 - has long faced dissension in the ranks of the armed forces.

The deserters now based in the east - who call themselves the Platform for National Change, Unity and Democracy (SCUD) - claim they number at least 700 and are demanding Deby’s departure before they will enter into negotiations with the government.

Their self-proclaimed leader Yaya Dillo Djerou told IRIN on Tuesday that SCUD was not linked to Monday’s attacks in and around the capital.

“We have no contact at all with them. These are not our soldiers,” he said in a telephone interview.

In its statement, the government called Monday’s attacks “a desperate and very limited act.”

“The situation is totally under control,” it added.

In past incidents of tension within the army, dissident soldiers in May 2004 staged a rebellion in N’djamena that was put down by loyalist forces. The mutineers, most of then from the Zaghawa people like Deby, said Chad was not doing enough to back the largely-Zaghawa rebels fighting the Sudanese government and allied militia in Darfur.

Last year, Deby accused neighbouring Sudan of backing a 3,000-strong rebel force operating at the border.

But Djerou, who is Zaghawa, told IRIN in a recent interview that ethnic questions played no part in the dissension within the army. He said the deserters were not linked to the Darfur rebel movements.