US, UK issue warnings in face of rebel incursion in northern Chad

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The Chadian army says the offensive in the northern provinces of Tibesti and Kanem is over, with the loss of 300 rebel lives. Despite this, the United States says rebel fighters appear to be moving towards the capital N'Djamena and have ordered non-essential staff to leave. Meanwhile, vote counting continues in the wake of tense presidential elections.

The Chadian army said on Monday it had killed 300 rebels who had staged a major incursion into the north of the country, adding that it had lost five of its soldiers in clashes over the weekend.

The heavily armed rebel group launched their attack from a base in Libya on 11 April, the day of polling in Chad's presidential election.

The raid by fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) were "neutralised" near Mao, around 200 kilometres northeast of the capital N'Djamena; according to an army spokesman, quoted by the French AFP news agency.

In other reports, rival news agency Reuters, quotes a spokesman for the rebel group, saying FACT fighters had "liberated" the province of Kanem, 300 km from the capital N'Djamena.

According to RFI's correspondent in Chad, the army reported it had taken 150 prisoners including three high-level rebel leaders and confiscated over 20 trucks, some heavily armed.

In the face of rising violence and uncertainty in the field, the US embassy ordered the evacuation of all non-essential personnel.

A day earlier the British government urged its citizens to leave Chad because of information that two rebel convoys were on the move, one near the town of Faya, some 770 km northeast of N'Djamena, and another near the town of Mao, the provincial capital of Kanem.

French authorities have called for their nationals in Chad to avoid any non-essential travel outside the capital.

FACT spokesman Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol said rebels had "liberated" Kanem and were still trying to root out remaining state security forces - a claim denied by the government.

"The authors of these false statements are not even on the ground, but somewhere in Europe," the government said in a message posted on Facebook.

Meanwhile, tensions remain high in the wake of Chad's presidential election.

Partial results show incumbent President Idriss Deby on course to extend his three decades in power, despite signs of growing discontent with his handling of the nation's oil wealth.

Deby has won a majority in all but two of the 84 departments announced so far, with 28 departments remaining, according to the Independent National Election Commission (CENI).