The rebels also shot down a Chadian army helicopter, Izzo said.

 

But Izzo told Reuters by satellite phone on Friday the rebels had pulled out of the town but were controlling the area around it.

 

"To avoid a battle in the town we withdrew," he said.

 

Casualties

Djadallah said government forces had killed 50 rebels and captured 30. He put government losses at 10 dead and said 10 rebel vehicles were destroyed and 10 captured.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.

The same rebel group clashed with the army at the eastern Chad garrison town of Guerada, 50km from Chad's border with Sudan, over three days during which 130 rebels and soldiers died and another 222 injured, government spokesman Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said on Tuesday.

 

The army repulsed the rebels from Guerada over the weekend.

 

Chadian rebels aiming to topple President Deby have clashed sporadically with government forces since 2005. The competition for power in the central African nation has become more intense since Chad began exporting oil in 2003.