Chad Says It Repels Advancing Rebels; U.S. Urges Staff to Leave
(Bloomberg) -- Chad said its army repelled rebels advancing southwards toward the country’s capital, as the U.S. ordered non-emergency staff at its embassy to leave the country.
A rebel convoy was intercepted in the southwestern Kanem region on Saturday, army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa said in a statement on state-run Office National de Radio et Television du Tchad. “The convoy was destroyed and a sweep is underway to capture the fugitives,” he said.
The action comes as partial results from an April 11 election show President Idriss Deby is likely to extend his three decades in charge of the oil-producing North African nation. The rebels accuse Deby, 68, of suppressing the opposition ahead of the vote.
While a government spokesman said in a Twitter post the “Libyan mercenaries’ adventure” had come to an end, the U.S. State Department said their proximity to the capital, N’Djamena, increased the possibility of violence and American government employees have been ordered to leave.
The Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad countered the government’s statement, saying the military had abandoned their camp in Kanem, leaving a large amount of weapons behind. The political-military group, which is made up of army dissidents, has been fighting to overthrow Deby since 2016.
The U.S., France and the U.K. said the rebels were advancing south on Saturday afternoon. A separate rebel convoy was spotted approaching the town of Mao, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of N’Djamena, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said in a website statement urging its citizens to leave Chad.
As many as 300 rebel fighters were killed in the latest clashes at the weekend, army Chief of Staff General Abakar Abdelkerim Daoud told Chadian news site Tchadinfos. An defense ministry spokesman reached by phone declined to comment.
France, Chad’s former colonial ruler, intervened in the conflict in early 2019, when French fighter jets struck targets in the north of the country in support of government forces trying to repel rebels who had crossed from neighboring Libya. France justified the intervention by saying there was a need to preserve stability in both Chad and the sub-region.
Chad is a key ally to Western forces battling Islamist militants in the Lake Chad area and West Africa’s Sahel region.
France is facing growing resistance to its military intervention in the Sahel both domestically and in the region, which may lead French President Emmanuel Macron to decide against aiding Deby this time.
To reinforce its army, Chad could instead withdraw some of its troops from Niger and Mali. Chad recently deployed 1,200 troops to the flashpoint “three-border” region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
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