After four days of heavy fighting in Chad, rebels supporting prime Minister Hissene Habre appeared to have gained the upper hand against forces loyal to President Felix Malloum.
GV: newsmen and photographers crowding around Chad refugees in terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris.
CU: distressed woman comforted by relatives.
CU: father with crying child declines any comment.
CU: distraught young woman forcing way through crowd.
CU: refugee woman being interviewed.
SCU AND GV: other refugees battling way through crowds (2 shots)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: After four days of heavy fighting in Chad, rebels supporting prime Minister Hissene Habre appeared to have gained the upper hand against forces loyal to President Felix Malloum. About five hundred people were thought to have died - mostly in the capital of N'Djamena - during the fighting, which led to the evacuation of United Nations staff and French and American citizens.
SYNOPSIS: The first group of French evacuees arrived on Friday (16 February) at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
One woman said N'Djamena was bombarded from all directions by mortars and machinegun fire. French residents left home for the airport on Tuesday, flying white flags from their cars.
A ceasefire was declared on Thursday (15 February) night, by which time President Malloum appeared to have surrendered power, according to Reuters news agency. Reuters quoted informed forces as saying the head of the gendarmerie, Lieutenant-Colonel Wadal Abdelkader Kamourgue, was leading troops loyal to the President against Prime Minister Habre's men.
An evacuee told reporters that protection had been provided by French paratroops flows in from Gabon to oversee the operation. Two thousand French troops have been stationed in Chad since last year to back President Malloum against the Frolinat guerrillas, who occupy more than half the country. Monsieur Habre, a moslem from the north, and a former leader of Frolinat, was made Prime Minister six months ago by President Malloum in an effort to end the violence. But political tensions between the two men built up quickly.
Fighting between the two sides broke out on Monday (12 February) with mortar and machinegun fire continuing almost without break until Thursday night. European evacuees said the African quarters of N'Djamena were almost totally destroyed.