DESERT TACTICS OF CHADIANS — LIKE OLD WEST — NYTimes.com

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DESERT TACTICS OF CHADIANS: OLD WEST

By BERNARD E. TRAINOR, to the New York Times

Published: 5, 1987

NDJAMENA, Chad, 4 Chadian tactics that led to the defeat of 5,000 Libyans at Dum last week are described in a of colorful ways by Chadian, and American officials in the capital

Americans liken the attacks of the northern tribesmen of the Chadian to attacks on wagon trains of the Old The French see tactical similarities to the old the series »Rat Patrol.» officials say their forces swarmed over their

All of these descriptions seem but they fail to convey the preparation that has made tactics successful.

Military officers here say at both the battles of Fada, the Chadians won last January, and Dum a week ago, the fate of the was sealed well before the was landed. Extensive Reconnaissance

In for the battle of Wadi Dum, the forces of the field commander, Djamous, and his compatriot, Ahmed who commands the presidential guard and is a of the United States Army’s school at Fort Benning, Ga. extensive reconnaissance at the Libyanheld


They also gathered some of which, according to sources, came from and French communications intercepts and photography. They knew the base was encircled by heavy to a depth of about six miles.

An extensive mine field the airfield and likely approaches to the were also heavily Now hundreds of captured Libyans are those mine fields.

The commander was known to be Col. Belkacem, who was rated by the Chadians as one of the officers in the Libyan Army. officers said they reluctant to attack the strongly base and sought to entice the out of their positions through ruses designed to convey weakness. Orders From

Officials in Chad say they believe the Libyan garrison was orders from Col. el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, to an attack to recapture Fada.

Early in March, two separate armored columns left Dum. The lead column 2,000 troops and 100 armored and tanks moved 30 miles in the of Fada, but then stopped at Bir About 12 miles separated the two units.

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The Chadians were by the stop, but speculate that Belkacem of Libya was half-heartedly out his orders from Tripoli; think he was delaying an attack on in hope that the order be rescinded.

The Chadians took of a two-week halt to test the for weaknesses. »When we decided to we intended to surprise the Libyans by the unexpected,» a Chadian military said. A Feeling of Safety

The Chadian said the Libyans upon air support to help and so felt safe from attack. On the night of March 18, the moved to surround the stalled column.

At dawn, probing were made on one flank to Libyan attention, and the main remained in hiding among the rocks a mile away on the flank. This force, in units of 200 men, then in camouflaged Toyota trucks machine guns, anti-tank and American automatic grenade

The Chadians knew their trucks were no match for the of the Libyans’ tanks and armored carriers. But, like the troops in the »Rat Patrol» against the Germans, the Chadians’ was to hit the Libyans before they react.

To deal with possible air attacks, hand-held surface-to-air and antiaircraft machine guns set up to ambush incoming planes. The did not use artillery and mortars because believed that the speed of made such support

With the commanders at the head of units, the Chadians opened in a daylight attack and drove at speed against the Libyan They quickly broke the Libyan positions, and units out in different directions within the defenses, firing as they

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