Chad stops group from flying 103 children to France
(Reuters) - Police in Chad arrested nine French people on Thursday as they were preparing to fly more than 100 children to France with a view to having them adopted, Chad's government and French diplomats said.
They included the head of a group called Zoe's Ark, which said earlier this year that it intended to bring orphans from Sudan's violent Darfur region to France for adoption.
Chad's Interior Minister, Ahmat Mahamat Bachir, said the nine French citizens were arrested at Abeche airport in eastern Chad, near the Darfur border, and were being held in police custody in the town.
"They had no official authorisation We have opened an inquiry," Bachir told Reuters by telephone.
"They'll be spending several nights here," he said, adding Chadian children were among the 103 infants aged between three and eight years old. Not all of them were orphans, he said.
The French Foreign Ministry issued a warning about Zoe's Ark in August, saying there was no guarantee the children were helpless orphans and casting doubt on the project's legality.
The French group had planned to fly the children from Abeche to France in a rented French charter plane, Bachir said.
An investigation was under way to find out who the children were and where they were from, though it seemed that they had been grouped in Adre, also near the border with Sudan, before being taken to Abeche, a French diplomat said.