350 Dead in Chad Rebel Assault; Ties Broken With Sudan

Chad broke off diplomatic relations with neighboring Sudan on Friday following a rebel attack on the capital that killed 350, an assault the president blamed on the Sudanese government.

President Idriss Deby also threatened to expel all 200,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur now living in Chad if the U.N. and the African Union did not help stop what he said were Sudan's attempts to destabilize his government.

"The international community has been totally deaf and dumb on the situation between Sudan and Chad," Deby said following an emergency Cabinet meeting. They "need to understand the situation and that enough is enough."

Deby, who ordered Sudanese diplomats out of the country, has repeatedly portrayed the rebels attempting to overthrow him as mercenaries employed by Sudan, something Sudanese officials have denied.

At least 350 people died during Thursday's assault on Chad's capital, N'Djamena. Gen. Mahamet Ali Abdullah said he did not have a breakdown of the dead but said the toll included government troops, rebel forces and civilians.

He said the army captured 271 rebels and 14 pickups they used, some mounted with anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft guns and missile launchers.

"After the battle yesterday morning, military and security forces mopped up in the city outskirts, taking out the rebels in their hiding places," he said, insisting there was no immediate threat of another attack.

The U.N. Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council both condemned the attack and called for Chad and Sudan to take the necessary steps to prevent any more violence or an escalation of tensions.

The United Nations has long warned that the violence in the Sudanese province of Darfur would destabilize the region, especially Chad.

Chadian troops paraded the rebel prisoners and laid out the bodies of dead insurgents at the National Assembly building on Friday.

The majority of the prisoners were under age 25 and many claimed to be Sudanese who had been conscripted into the rebel United Forces for Change. One said he was an adjutant in the Sudanese army, while another was recognized by loyalist troops as a former Chadian soldier.

Some said they had been assured that Chad's forces would not fight once the rebels entered the capital.

The rebels charged 620 miles in three days in pickups from their bases and came close to capturing the National Assembly building in the center of N'djamena. Government troops pushed them back with tanks, artillery and attack helicopters.

Deby has declared victory over the rebels, following the second attempt to overthrow him in less than a month. Army officers first attempted to overthrow him while he was out of the country on March 14.

Deby has seen his authority undermined by violence across the border in Sudan's Darfur, where the rebels are based. The path to power in Chad via Darfur is something Deby knows well — he seized power in a 1990 coup launched from there himself.

A Web site that said it represented the rebels reported Thursday that rebel troops were on the move to the north and east of N'djamena and were regrouping. There was also a statement claiming that rebel forces now controlled two towns near the Sudanese border, Adre and Am-Timam, but the report could not be independently verified.

Chad, an arid, landlocked country about three times the size of France, has been wracked by violence for most of its history, with more than 30 years of civil war since independence from France in 1960 and different small-scale insurgencies since 1998.

The competition for power has become more intense since the country began producing oil. An Exxon Mobil-led consortium exported 133 million barrels of oil from Chad between October 2003 and December 2005, according to the World Bank. Chad, which receives a 12.5 percent royalty on each barrel exported, earned $307 million, the bank said.