Chad charges French, Spanish over children-minister

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ABECHE, Chad, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Chadian authorities charged nine French nationals today with abducting children and fraud after they were detained trying to fly 103 children to Europe.

Communications Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor also said seven Spanish citizens, the crew of the charter plane used in the operation, had been charged with being accessories to the crimes.

The 16 Europeans were detained last Thursday as they tried to fly 103 African children out of Abeche in eastern Chad to live with families in Europe.

Doumgor said the group would probably be transferred this week from Abeche, near Chad's eastern border with Sudan, to the capital N'Djamena in the west.

The accused include the president and other members of French organisation Zoe's Ark, which said it intended to help the children, not abduct them, and that it acted legally.

The children were due to be housed in host families who paid the group several thousand euros each.

Zoe's Ark said the operation offered a better life to orphans from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, many of whose people have fled over the border to camps in Chad.

REUTERS PD RAI1331

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