, NDJAMENA, May 13 – Chad President Idriss Deby Itno led around 10,000 anti-Sudanese demonstrators through the capital Ndjamena on Wednesday, to protest what he said was Khartoum’s support for a recent rebel offensive.
Deby, who joined the march for a few hundred metres (yards) as it passed by the presidential palace, accused Sudan of bankrolling the rebel assault.
"On May 4 last, columns of mercenaries paid by the Khartoum regime crossed the border to attack Chadian army positions, on board more than 800 heavily armed vehicles," he told the crowd.
Around 10,000 people from a broad cross-section of Chadian society, including soldiers, turned out for the protest, AFP correspondents said. The government had declared Wednesday a paid national holiday to celebrate victory over the rebels.
Some brandished banners declaring "Down with the traitor al-Beshir" referring to the Sudanese president, and others lauding the army and security forces which pushed back the rebels in desert battles last week.
They were routed after two days of fierce fighting in which Ndjamena says 247 people were killed, all but 22 of them rebels.
"The adventurers bit the dust once again," Deby told the crowd. A previous rebel assualt was repulsed in February last year.
"I want to reassure the Chadian people," said Deby, who on Monday donned combat gear to fly to the eastern border region where most of the fighting took place. "Our defence and security forces have total mastery and control of the situation."
"I will never allow adventurers of all kinds to come and trouble the peace of the Chadian people," he said.
Earlier, several political parties called on the governnment to break off recently restored diplomatic relations with Sudan.
Sudan has denied backing the Union of Forces for the Resistance (UFR), a coalition of the main rebel factions, which launched the surprise attack on May 4.
Khartoum has long insisted Chad end its support for rebels, mainly the Justice and Equality Movement, in its western province of Darfur.
A UN Security Council meeting in New York unanimously condemned the rebel offensive, which came shortly after Ndjamena and Khartoum signed the latest in a series of peace accords, none of which has had any lasting effect.