President of Chad Idriss Deby dies in clashes with rebels one day after winning election
Chad’s president Idriss Deby has been killed on the battlefield in a fight against rebels, the country’s top military commander has said.
Mr Deby, 68, died of wounds suffered on a visit to the frontline of a campaign against rebels in northern Chad, the military said on national television and radio on Tuesday.
His death came the day after he was acknowledged as the winner of the latest presidential election, earning him a sixth term in office.
Mr Deby, one of Africa’s longest ruling leaders, took more than 79% of the votes, according to official results, but opposition leaders boycotted the 11 April ballot.
The exact cause of his death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location, but the military said he had taken “the heroic lead in combat operations against terrorists who had come from Libya”.
After being wounded in battle, Mr Deby, who was known for visiting frontline troops, was then taken to the capital N’Djamena, the general said.
Some foreign observers suggested it cast doubt on his protective guard, or that the country’s military has underestimated the threat the rebels pose.
Laith Alkhouri, a global intelligence adviser, said: “It raises concerns regarding the security forces’ assessment of the clashes and their intelligence regarding the severity of the situation.”
Mr Deby was joining troops on the frontline, his campaign said on Monday, after rebels based across the northern frontier in Libya advanced hundreds of kilometres south toward the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.
Mr Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, will head an 18-month transitional council made up of military officers, spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna said in a broadcast on state television.
A 6pm curfew has been imposed in the country, the military added.
The UK has now advised against travelling to Chad, citing a “heightened risk of unrest”, and urged British nationals in the country to leave as soon as possible.
The Foreign Office said the move had been prompted by an advance of armed rebel vehicles appearing to head towards N’Djamena.
Commercial flights back to the UK are still operating but could change at short notice due to COVID-19 restrictions.
General Azem Bermandoa Agouma said: “In the face of this worrying situation, the people of Chad must show their attachment to peace, to stability, and to national cohesion.”
Mr Deby, a former army commander-in-chief, first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-president Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.
Over the years, Mr Deby had survived numerous armed rebellions and managed to stay in power until this latest insurgency, led by a group calling itself the Front for Change and Concord in Chad.
The rebels are believed to have been armed and trained in neighbouring Libya before crossing into northern Chad on April 11.
Western countries have seen Mr Deby as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel area. Sky News