President of Chad dies in clashes with rebels

Chad President Idriss Déby, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, died in clashes with opposition rebel groups, an army spokesperson announced Tuesday. 

The death of the 68-year-old president, who first came to power in 1990 after successfully leading a coup against the former government, comes one day after he had seemingly secured a sixth term in office with an overwhelming win in the country’s presidential election. 

Reuters reported that Déby’s campaign on Monday had announced that he was visiting troops battling rebel groups based across the northern border in Libya, though the news agency noted that the exact cause of death was not immediately clear. 

In a state television broadcast, army spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna and a group of military officers he called the National Council of Transition officially announced Déby’s death. 

“A call to dialogue and peace is launched to all Chadians in the country and abroad in order to continue to build Chad together,” he said, adding that the council “reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security and the republican order.”

While the president had been supported by Western countries like the U.S. and France as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremists in the region, rebel groups have repeatedly attempted to overthrow Déby, especially recently with increased criticism over his management of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on political opponents. 

“We condemn recent violence and loss of life in Chad,” the State Department said in a statement Tuesday afternoon offering its condolences to the nation.

“The United States stands with the people of Chad during this difficult time,” it added. “We support a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution.”

Amid concerns of rebel groups advancing toward the African country’s capital of N’Djamena, the State Department on Sunday ordered nonessential U.S. personnel out of Chad. 

Rebel forces had posted on social media last week that they had overtaken a Chadian army base in the northern portion of the country. The rebel group said that the Chad army was receiving logistical support from France, but France’s defense ministry would not confirm whether it was involved.

–Updated at 1:47 p.m.

Tags Africa Chad Coup France Islamist extremism Islamist groups Reuters Social media State Department
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