Chad’s President Dies After Battle With Rebels, Military Says

Idriss Déby, who ruled the oil-producing nation of Chad for three decades, died Tuesday after sustaining injuries in clashes between rebels and government troops, the country’s military announced.

In a statement read on state television, military spokesman Gen. Azem Bermandoa Agouma said Mr. Déby was injured in a battle with rebels advancing on the capital from the country’s northern border with Libya.

The announcement of his death, which couldn’t immediately be verified independently, came a day after Mr. Déby, a key ally of Chad’s former colonial power France and the U.S. in the fight against Boko Haram militants, was declared the winner of a contested April 11 presidential election. According to the official results, he won 79% of the vote.

“The president of the republic, the head of state, the supreme leader of the armed forces, Idriss Déby Itno, has just taken his final breath while defending the territorial integrity on the battlefield,” Gen. Bermandoa said.

Over the weekend, the U.S. State Department ordered all nonessential staff of its embassy in Chad to leave the country, citing the advancement of rebels from the north toward the capital, N’Djamena.

The fighting in Chad is a sign of how conflict in neighboring Libya has created instability in the broader region. Rebels from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, or FACT,  are based in Libya, but crossed into Chadian territory on election day.

The group was deployed at Jufra air base, a major military base controlled by Khalifa Haftar, a warlord backed by Russia and the United Arab Emirates who launched a 14-month assault on Libya’s internationally recognized government in 2019. Russia has also deployed paramilitary fighters and jet fighters to the same air base.

FACT has been expanding its presence in southern Libya and was guarding some of Mr. Haftar’s bases in the area, according to a report released in March by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Libya, which monitors military developments in the country. FACT’s leader claims neutrality in the Libyan conflict. The group’s fighters served in two of Mr. Haftar’s battalions, according to the report.

Mr. Haftar’s assault on Tripoli ended in 2020 and Libya’s rival factions formed a unity government in February 2021.

Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at [email protected] and Jared Malsin at [email protected]

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