The wreckage of burned
cars in a street of N'Djamena. Tank battles in the streets and
helicopter air strikes rocked the Chad capital Sunday as President
Idriss Deby tried to win back lost territory and foreigners fled
the country. [Agencies]
Heavy clashes broke out on the second day of the siege of the
Chadian capital by rebels Sunday, till when the Chinese embassy had
helped evacuate more than 200 Chinese nationals from N'Djamena.
Army helicopters and troops loyal to President Idriss Deby
struck back at the rebels besieging the presidential palace.
The helicopters bombed the rebels who, armed with pickup trucks
mounted with cannon and machine guns, fought tanks and foot
soldiers in a bid to dislodge the president from his
heavily-defended palace in the west of the city.
Foreign and local residents in the dusty capital said heavy
weapon and machine-gun fire erupted before dawn near the palace,
not far from two hotels where several hundred foreigners were
sheltering. Smoke was also seen rising in the sky.
The rebels battled their way into the capital from the north on
Saturday with a column of 300 vehicles.
But they appeared unable to take full control of the sprawling
city on the banks of the Chari river.
The Chinese embassy has helped move the Chinese nationals to
neighboring Cameroon, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said
Only nine embassy staff and some other Chinese nationals remain
in N'Djamena, and the foreign ministry is trying to evacuate them
too, Liu said.
China Daily's call to the Chinese embassy
Sunday went unanswered. The Chinese newspaper Legal Evening
News got through to the embassy earlier, and reported that
gunfire could be clearly heard over the phone.
Heavy street fighting is raging in N'Djamena, and the embassy
building's windows shook when tanks fired, the Legal Evening
News quoted embassy officials as having said.
The Chinese nationals who have been evacuated include 195
employees of companies like PetroChina, CGC Overseas Construction,
ZTE and Huawei, and two Taiwan compatriots. They are in Cameroon
now, and were escorted by Cameroonian troops to hotels in the north
of the country, the Chinese Embassy in Yaounde said.
Cameroon has been very cooperative and the country's senior
officials have called the Chinese ambassador over the phone to
offer help, a Chinese counselor in Cameroon surnamed Wu said.
The staff of the Chinese Embassy in Cameroon have arranged for
food for those evacuated from Chad Sunday afternoon and visited
them at the hotels, Wu said. The embassy has booked rooms in three
more hotels to accommodate more Chinese nationals who are likely to
evacuated be later.
The Chinese consulate in Douala, Cameroon's largest city and top
aviation hub, has prepared to book air tickets for the evacuated
compatriots to return to the motherland, Wu said.
Former colonial ruler France, which has a military contingent in
Chad, resumed the evacuation of French and foreign nationals. Paris
said French planes had carried more than 500 French and other
foreigners to Gabon, and about 400 more were still waiting to be
French Defense Minister Herve Morin said yesterday the situation
in Chad is still "uncertain". "I believe President Deby is in
charge of his troops," Morin told Reuters Television. He, however,
told the French media that the chief of Deby's armed forces had
reportedly been killed.
(China Daily February 4, 2008)