An attack on government troops early on 1 April at the town of Ade in eastern Chad on the border with Sudan is the first serious attempt by the rebels to challenge government forces since February when the rebels got as far as the capital N’djamena before withdrawing.
“The attack today [1 April] could just be a single event but we fear that it is the beginning of a much larger offensive,” according to a diplomat in N’djamena who wished to remain anonymous.
Dozens of government troops and many civilians were injured in the fighting which ended around midday, according to a source in Ade.
Information on the number of rebel causalities was unavailable, nor was it clear whether the rebels had retreated into Sudan or moved southeast in the direction of the Chadian village of Modoyna which is near the border.
Sources in Ade confirmed that the attackers were part of the rebel National Alliance (NA), which consists of at least three rebel groups headed by Mahamat Nouri a former Chadian general who led the attack on Ndjamena in February.
“What the rebels do next is anyone’s guess,” said the diplomat. “Maybe they just wanted to rattle their sabers and that will be it or maybe this attack was a decoy for larger rebel attacks that could soon take place elsewhere along the border and we are about to witness something big.”
“The important thing is that everyone is preparing for any eventuality,” he added, referring to the evacuation from N’djamena of diplomats, international aid workers and tens of thousands of civilians during the February rebel offensive.
The Chadian ministry of defense issued a statement saying that Sudan is behind the latest attack and calling the rebels “mercenaries” of Sudan’s government. It said that Sudan had violated various accords with Chad notably the one signed on 13 Match in Dakar, in front of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders.
A Sudanese military spokesman told Reuters in Khartoum: “Sudan's armed forces had no hand in what is happening in Chad - this is an internal matter."