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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK
Chad rebels claim key capture

Rebels in Chad say they have captured the key garrison town of Bardai, in the north of the country.

In a statement, the main rebel group, the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT), said its fighters had killed more than 240 government troops during the fighting.

A rebel spokesman described the taking of Bardai as a turning point in the war, and called on President Idriss Deby to step down.


He who loses a position like Bardai loses the war

rebel fighter, Ahmed Touer
There was no independent confirmation of the claim. However, the Chadian government has rejected the rebels' claims, saying its troops still control Bardai.

Government troops and rebels from the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) have been fighting around the town of Bardai, in the strategic northern region of Tibesti, since Monday.

President Idriss Deby
Rebels say President Deby should go

The rebels, led by former defence minister Youssouf Togoimi, also claimed that they controlled the towns of Yebbi Bou, Zoua, Zoumri and Miski.

"He who loses a position like Bardai loses the war," said Ahmed Touer, calling the capture a "turning point".

'Rebels retreating'

Chad authorities acknowledged there had been fighting in the area around Bardai from Monday evening, but denied that they had lost control of the town, where 1,000 troops are based.

"The government wishes to make it known to national and international opinion that government forces control the garrison of Bardai and that fighting is continuing around the garrison," the government said in a statement.

The government also said that its troops had launched an offensive against the rebels, saying they had been forced into retreat.

The Bardai garrison, which is nearly 2,000 km from the capital, is a government stronghold with a heavy concentration of troops.

Monday's clashes are the worst since May, when fighting between government troops and rebels flared at Wour, also in the Tibesti region.

Rebels have been fighting the government since October 1998.

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See also:

05 May 00 | Africa
Crisis on all fronts for Chad
01 Apr 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The retreat from empire
05 Jul 00 | Africa
Anger over Habre acquittal
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