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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 10:04 GMT
Bodies gathered from Chad streets
A Chadian army soldier looks at a charred car during a patrol in the capital city N"Djamena
Burnt out vehicles litter N'Djamena's streets
Red Cross workers in Chad's capital have begun collecting dead bodies strewn on the streets during fierce clashes with rebels who fled on Sunday.

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in N'Djamena says the army is in control and French soldiers can also be seen patrolling.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin has arrived in the city for talks with President Idriss Deby.

Our reporter says attack helicopters can be heard taking off to go and bomb rebel positions outside the city.

He says thanks to intelligence and logistics provided by the French military they will be hunting for the rebel's 200 pick-up trucks which withdrew after the heavy battles over the weekend.

I telephoned my friend in N'Djamena and he told me that my mother, my father and my fiancee had all been shot - I don't know whether to cry or kill myself
"Mohammed", refugee

Aid workers believe up to 1,000 people were wounded in the fighting. Medecins Sans Frontieres says more than 500 people have been admitted to their hospitals.

Meanwhile, aid officials in Cameroon say they are struggling to help about 20,000 Chadian refugees who have fled the fighting.

More than 3,000 other refugees have fled to Nigeria.

Earlier, the leader of the main UFDD rebel group said it was prepared to agree a ceasefire in return for the promise of negotiations with the government, but the government dismissed the offer, saying it had already beaten the rebels.

A mediation mission from Libya and Congo-Brazzaville, appointed by the African Union is due to meet both sides.

Tension

Our correspondent says people in the capital are coming out of hiding in their houses for the first time in four days.

Map of Chad, Sudan and Darfur, showing Adre

Many buildings have been destroyed and the wrecks of cars can be seen at most junctions, he says.

The atmosphere is tense and patrols of both government and French troops can be seen patrolling the streets.

The rebels have disappeared into the vast desert surrounding the city and are believed to be short of fuel and ammunition.

Before arriving in N'Djamena, Mr Morin said that France did have a military agreement with Chad which provides for logistical, medical and training support, but "in no way is it a defence agreement... that would oblige France to intervene to protect the sovereignty of the country involved".

However, he admitted that French fighter jets and reconnaissance planes had been flying over the border with Sudan over the past 36 hours in line with a request from President Nicolas Sarkozy to ensure there are no foreign incursions.

The government has accused Sudan of giving the rebel groups rear bases in Darfur, a charge which Khartoum denies.

A French-dominated European Union peacekeeping force had been due to start deploying to eastern Chad last week to give the refugees and aid workers there a measure of protection, but the latest rebel offensive began at the same time.

BBC world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says one theory is that Sudan encouraged the rebels to attack in order to stop the EU opening a window on Khartoum's activities in Darfur, where it has been accused of genocide.

Although the former French colony has a history of coups, last week's fighting was the most violent in decades.





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