Chad Claims 1,200 Libyans Killed, 200 Tanks Captured or Destroyed
PARIS (AP) _ Chad announced its troops killed more than 1,200 Libyan soldiers and captured or destroyed 200 tanks in taking a Libyan air base at Ouadi Doum in northern Chad.
It said 438 Libyans were taken prisoner, including the zone commander, Col. Khalifa Abul-Aftar. His deputy, Col. Gassim Ali Abu Nawar was killed, according to the announcement made Tuesday night by the Chad Embassy in Paris.
Libya has denied having any troops in Chad and has not acknowledged the loss of Ouadi Doum.
French officials confirmed that Chadian soldiers captured the base in a two-hour battle Sunday.
French Defense Minister Andre Giraud told reporters the results of the Chadian offensive were ″more spectacular, fast and significant than expected″ and said the fall of Ouadi Doum could have ″decisive consequences″ in the battle to oust Libyans from northern Chad.
France is the primary backer of Chad, its former colony, with military and economic assistance, although the United States has also begun delivering military aid to the north African country. Giraud said the French, who recently delivered anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, supplied logistical support but did not join in the fighting.
The Chad Embassy statement, described as ″partial and preliminary″ was the first detailed accounting of what the Chadians are describing as perhaps the most significant battle in 20 years of warfare.
Captured in the attack were 124 tanks of different East-bloc manufacture, three Soviet-made MI-24 assault helicopters, 11 Czech-made L-39 bombers, four batteries of SAM-10 missiles and 12 SAM-6 missile-lauchers.
The Chad statement claimed nearly as much materiel destroyed as captured in the fighting - including two Tu-22 bombers, four L-39 bombers, one MiG-21 fighter and 104 tanks.
The Chadians also claimed to have captured or destroyed many trucks, troop transport carriers, artillery fuel and ammunition.
Losses of the Chadian attackers were limited 29 killed and 58 wounded, according to the statement.
The troops of Chadian President Hissene Habre have scored a series of successes since Jan. 2, when they drove the Libyans from another stronghold in the north, Fada.
Ouadi Doum, which has a 12,500-foot runway, was described by Western analysts as Libya’s chief supply point in the region. The Sunday battle was preceded last week by two other Chadian victories nearby in which the Chadians claimed to have killed nearly 800 Libyans and captured more than 120.
Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi claims he has no troops in Chad. France and the United States estimate there are between 11,000 and 14,000 Libyan soldiers in the northern half of Chad.
Michel Aurillac, France’s minister of foreign aid, said the last Libyan stronghold, Faya Largeau, 95 miles south of Ouadi Doum, is now virtually cut off, and could fall soon to soldiers loyal to Habre’s government in N’Djamena, the Chadian capital.
The latest round of fighting broke out in December after Gadhafi dropped his support for rebel leader Goukouni Oueddei and Goukouni’s fighters rallied to Habre. Goukouni, a former president of Chad, is now in Algiers, reportedly negotiating terms for his return to N’Djamena.