- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

N’DJAMENA, Chad — Rebels who advanced on this capital in a fleet of new Toyotas had clear support from Sudan, which wants to replace President Idriss Deby Itno with a pro-Sudan leader, said diplomats and human rights groups here.

International observers said Tuesday that there was logistical and political support by Sudan for the Chadian rebel United Front for Change, a day after the United States termed such support “unacceptable.”

“The rebels are Chadians, but they are clearly supported by Sudan,” said Olivier Bercault of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

“An armed movement from the east of Chad cannot arrive in N’Djamena in a few days without logistical support from Khartoum,” he said, referring to United Front for Change forces who traveled about 500 miles to fight Deby loyalists here last week.

The rebels were equipped with “dozens of new Toyotas,” he said.

On Monday, Chad accused Sudan of forming a new rebel army to attack the country.

A French diplomatic source said Khartoum supports United Front for Change leader Mahamat Nour Abdelkerim with a view to toppling Mr. Deby, whom it accuses of supporting the rebellion in Sudan’s Darfur region.

After repelling last week’s coup attempt, Chadian authorities displayed what they said were captured Sudanese mercenaries, plus arms and other material they said were evidence of Sudan’s involvement.

International observers say Mr. Nour’s forces receive support from Darfur, which borders eastern Chad. One such source said Chadian rebels had bases in el-Geneina, the capital of the Sudanese state of West Darfur.

“They benefit from the open support of auxiliary militias from Khartoum. Logistical support, arms and provisions,” the observer said.

Shortly after the founding of the United Front for Change, one of its chiefs, Abdelwahit About, told Radio France Internationale that the front has “close and friendly” ties with Khartoum.

Talks on founding United Front for Change were held in el-Geneina in December, said sources close to the rebels.

Mr. About has denied receiving material support from Sudan.

But the reports of Sudan’s involvement were supported Tuesday, even by opponents of the government in Chad.

“Sudan aids the United Front for Change materially. It’s plain to see,” said Ngarleji Yorongar, a fierce opponent of Mr. Deby’s. The leadership of “Mahamat Nour is a creation of the Sudanese, and today he is sufficiently armed and supported to take power in N’Djamena.”

Sources formerly close to Mr. Nour also say he fought alongside the Sudanese army against rebels in Darfur.

The United States suggested Monday that Sudan may have been involved in the failed rebel offensive in Chad and said it warned Khartoum that such action was “unacceptable.” But Washington stopped short of officially endorsing Chad’s accusations that Sudan armed the rebels.

Chad said Sunday that its delegation had withdrawn from the Darfur peace talks brokered by the African Union because of “Sudanese aggression.”

Humanitarian groups have warned that the fate of 200,000 refugees from Darfur hangs in the balance because of the escalating crisis between Chad and Sudan. Despite the accusations against Sudan, Mr. Deby withdrew Monday a threat to expel the refugees being sheltered in eastern Chad.

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