EU peacekeepers remain on standby as Chadian rebels seize the capital N'djamena after intense fighting with government troops, according to military sources.
Rebels are reportedly patroling the Chadian capital after seizing control
The head of one of the three main rebel groups, Timan Erdimi, was reported to have demanded that President Idriss Deby Itno, who remained holed up in the presidential palace, open negotiations on power-sharing or there would be a full-blown war.
Witnesses described the rebels, in olive-green battledress and white armbands, as roaring around in camouflaged pick-up trucks while others had stormed the main prison in N'djamena and released its inmates.
The increased instability has led to the EU suspending its plans to deploy a peacekeeping mission to the country and officials announced that no troops would be leaving for Chad over the weekend.
No more EU peacekeepers in Chad this weekend
"It's still very unstable" on the ground, Lieutenant Colonel Philippe de Cussac, spokesman for the EU mission at its French headquarters, told reporters. "We don't know exactly what the situation there is but today, we in Paris will be more involved in gathering information than anything else. There are no flights planned over the weekend. We have decided to watch events in Chad very closely and will take our decisions on a day-to-day basis."
Three flights, one with a dozen Austrian soldiers and two with around 50 Irish soldiers and equipment, were due to arrive in Chad on Friday but were cancelled due to the rebel's advance on the capital.
Commander of EU forces General Patrick Nash
The EU force, led by Irish Major General Pat Nash, is tasked with protecting refugees from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, near Chad's eastern border, as well as Chadians and people of the neighboring Central African Republic displaced by internal conflict.
Force commanders expect the mission to be initially ready in March and fully up and running in May, with a total of some 3,700 European troops drawn from 14 nations, and France has provided more than 2,000 personnel in its former colony since 1986.
French bolster force in Chadian capital
De Cussac said the advance party members of the European mission -- including French, Irish, Austrian and Italian troops -- are not currently under threat. "There is no risk because they are at the moment in the French camps," he said.
The French government beefed up its military presence in the Chadian capital on Friday with a company of 150 soldiers from its garrison in Libreville, Gabon, to protect French nationals in N'djamena.
French Defense Minister Herve Morin said a military Airbus was flying to the capital on Saturday to fly out the expatriates, who include more than 1,000 French citizens.
The UNHCR has had to pull its staff out after attacks
As another result of the fighting, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said it had evacuated most of its staff from the area of Guereda in eastern Chad.
The UNHCR team in the area said it had experienced several attacks in 72 hours, with gunmen in military uniforms breaking into its compound and threatening the guards with guns.
UN condemns attempted rebellion
The United Nations rejected the use of force to topple the government in Chad and condemned actions worsening the humanitarian situation, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.
The UN condemns the attempts to overthrow Deby
Ban said in a statement he was "deeply concerned" by the renewed fighting and reiterated the UN's "condemnation of the use of military means to seize power."
"The secretary general calls on all parties to abide by their commitment under the different peace accords signed by them and to urgently resort to dialogue to reach a peaceful and negotiated settlement of this latest crisis," the statement said.
The Chadian government informed the UN Security Council on Thursday that it intended "to make use of the full range of means at its disposal, including hot pursuit of the aggressors, to exercise its right of self-defense against the aggression orchestrated and strongly supported by the Sudan."