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Chad Security Alleges Coup Plot

15 March 2006

Chad's security forces are reporting they foiled an overnight coup plot against President Idriss Deby Itno. They say there was an attempt to shoot dwn his plane as he returned to Chad.

Armed forces were deployed in key parts of the otherwise calm capital Ndjamena Wednesday after reports of the alleged coup plot. Some soldiers prevented traffic from leaving the city across a bridge on a main highway towards Cameroon.

Mobile phone networks went off the air.

Officials close to President Deby, who recently added Itno to his last name, told journalists arrests had been made, but were not specific.

They blamed the twins Tom and Timane Erdimi for being behind the coup attempt. The two are relatives of President Deby and his former close political and business associates. But they are now part of a disparate rebellion operating near the border region of Sudan's Darfur province, calling on him to step down.

Many of these rebels, as Global Insight researcher Chris Melville explains, are also part of Mr. Deby's dominant ethnic group.

"The Erdimis are regarded as key members of the Zaghawa clique at the heart of the regime and many of those individuals within that group hold office within the armed forces or have done so until the last couple of months and so there is certainly the possibility that could, given their own financial resources, you could see them mounting a significant military challenge to the regime," he said.

The communications minister says the main coup plotters fled after being repulsed by loyal soldiers. Some rebels opposed to President Deby were quoted as saying there had been a coup attempt, but that they had been betrayed.

The apparent coup plot comes after several high-level army officers recently sent on a mission to negotiate with the rebels deserted themselves.

Since getting international aid to build an oil pipeline, President Deby has gutted laws guaranteeing some proceeds would go to poverty alleviation, citing security problems. He also changed the constitution so he can run for a third elected term in elections scheduled for early May.

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