Chad rebels confront Army Rangers

 

THIRTY MEMBERS of the elite Army Ranger Wing were confronted by 200 heavily armed rebels while patrolling close to the Chad-Darfur border as part of the European peace enforcement mission (EUFor) in Chad, it has emerged.

The Rangers’ chance encounter with the rebel grouping took place last week on a long-range patrol which has just been completed in an area east of the village of Ade. The area is classified by EUFor as a zone of maximum danger, or “red zone”.

One Ranger source said the rebels “came out of nowhere” after a small group of Rangers drove into a village as the rest of the 30-strong Irish patrol observed from a distance.

The Union of Forces for Change and Democracy (UFCD) grouping, who were armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, was not hostile towards the Irish and agreed to speak with them through the Rangers’ interpreters.

It was the first time in the four month-old French-led EUFor mission that any of its 3,700 international troops has established contact with one of the rebel groupings.

The UFCD is a splinter rebel group made up of men who took part in a major assault by 2,500 rebels on the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, in February and almost succeeded in taking the city from the government.

The Rangers have also received intelligence in recent days that a number of rebel groups are rallying in Darfur about 45 miles from Goz Beida, in eastern Chad, where 400 Irish troops are currently constructing their new base.

According to a military source, a fresh rebel assault on N’Djamena has not been ruled out before the rainy season starts in three weeks when roads will be impassable.

During the February attack, the rebels made their way from Darfur through Goz Beida.

Defence Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Major Gen Dave Ashe, who is currently on a visit to Chad, told The Irish Times the planned withdrawal next month of the Rangers will not compromise the safety of the other 400 Irish troops remaining with the EUfor mission.

Major Gen Ashe said the Irish soldiers now arriving in Chad must be ready to face “warrior” rebel groupings if the need arises when the Rangers withdraw in mid June.

“These [militia] are not your average bandit, they are tough boyos,” he said.

“Some people have described them as warriors. They know how to fight. But they would not have the capability that we have.”

The 400 troops, mainly from the Western Brigade, would now begin to “patrol in force”.