Washington — Libya has launched major attacks by regular troops and bombers into the neighboring African nation of Chad, according to American defense analysts. Under the leadership of Col. Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has long been involved in Chad, one of the poorest of the African nations. It has backed several Chadian political factions over the years and has occupied a strip of allegedly mineral-rich land inside that beleaguered country.
But the latest Libyan moves, taken over the past month or so, represent a "quantum leap," according to a US official who has studied the situation.
Defense analysts say Libya has committed as many as three to four regular Army battalions to intervention in Chad's prolonged civil war. Armor and helicopters are believed to be supporting the troops.
American intelligence indicates that Soviet-made TU 22 bombers of the Libyan Air Force have struck at the airport outside the capital city of n'Djamena.
Some defense analysts think the Libyans have taken advantage of the diversion of world attention caused by the US election and the Iraq-Iran war to expand their exports of arms armed men to Middle Eastern and African countries. The factions in Chad who are fighting the Libyans contend that Colonel Qaddafi has launched an invasion. But the Libyans argue that they are on the side of legality, because they are backing Chad's President Goukouni Oueddei, whose forces have been fighting those of former defense minister Hissene Habre.
The Libyan involvement in Chad has been little reported in the Western press, because, for one thing, there are few Westerners left there. The French withdrew almost completely some time ago. The US theoretically has an ambassador to Chad, but he is working in Washington. Intelligence reports on the confused civil war are fragmentary.
Some experts think there is uranium in Chad and that this may be one reason for Qaddafi's interest in that country. Reuters news agency quotes African diplomats as saying that failure by the Libyan leader, in successive attempts, to reach agreement on union with two of Libya's neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia, may have led him to turn southward. It would not be his first intervention in black AFrica. Qaddafi once sent troops to Uganda to support erstwhile President Idi Amin.
according to Reuters, Chad Foreign Minister Ahmat Acyl recently denied allegations that Libyan troops were fighting in Chad. He reiterated charges that Egypt was arming the Habre forces.
But representatives of the Habre forces have been circulating photographs of captured Libyan soldiers. Published reports from the neighboring country of Sudan allege that Libyan forces are driving deep into Chad.
Libyan has been active on other fronts as well.Libyan aircraft are said to be flying to Eastern Europe by way of Athens to pick up spare parts and other military equipment for Iran's war effort against Iraq. Iranian 747s are reported to be flying into Libya to load war material.
In the United States, State Department officials have expressed concern over possible links between the Libyan Peoples' Bureau (embassy) in Washington and the Oct. 14 shooting of a Libyan student in Fort Collins, Colo.
The FBI has decided to intervene in the case because of allegations that political motives might be involved. The victim described his assailant as an American male, which suggests to police officials the possibility of a "hired gun."
The Libyan government is believed to have been behind a series of earlier attacks on Libyan critics of the regime living in Europe. And Libya has publicly warned such critics that they might be subjects to reprisals.