TEHRAN (Iran News) – The Chadian military has launched a strong attack on rebels in the African country’s north to deter their planned advance on the capital, N’Djamena, following the funeral of President Idriss Deby, who died last week of wounds suffered on the front lines.
Azem Bermendao Agouna, a spokesman for Chad’s military, said on Saturday that the forces had bombarded northern rebels “to the verge of despair,” and ruled out the possibility of their assault to seize the capital following Deby’s death due to battlefield injuries.
“The rebellion does not even exist, it is annihilated,” he added.
The rebels, known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), crossed over the border from northern neighbor Libya on April 11 in their thousands and advanced within 200 kilometers of the capital before a pushback from the Chadian military.
The Chadian president was declared dead on Monday after suffering injuries in his long-time fight against militants. His death came just a day after he won an election to extend his 30-year rule. He was one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
Deby, who came to power in a rebellion in 1990, took about 80 percent of the vote in the April 11 election, which was boycotted by opposition.
A military council headed by Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, took power after his death, saying it intended to oversee an 18-month transition to elections. Opposition politicians and civil society have denounced the takeover as a coup and on Saturday called for organized protests.
Calling it a “monarchy,” FACT rejected the military transition and announced on the same day that the rebels were “preparing to advance” on N’Djamena, without giving more details.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a FACT spokesman confirmed the Chadian military’s report of deterrent attacks on Saturday and said the air force had been bombing their position “morning and evening” since Thursday.
The spokesman also said that French armed forces had supported the Chadian raids with aerial surveillance.
Macron pledges French support for Chad
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who sat next to Deby’s son at the funeral on Friday, pledged to defend Chad — a former French colony — and called for a transition to democracy.
“France will not let anybody put into question or threaten today or tomorrow Chad’s stability and integrity,” Macron said in his speech.
“France will also be there to keep alive without waiting the promise of a peaceful Chad creating a place for all of its children and components,” he said, calling the late president a friend and courageous soldier who had devoted his life to his country.
A source at the French presidency said France and regional countries were pushing for a mixed civilian-military transitional government in Chad.
In the past years, terrorist attacks by regional militant groups have been a source of insecurity in Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and neighboring African countries.
Thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced by the violence, according to the United Nations.
France has been leading what it alleges as a counter-terrorism mission across the Sahel region, a semi-arid stretch of land south of Africa’s Sahara desert.
Terrorist groups, linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh, have strengthened their foothold across the Sahel region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence.
Last year, France boosted its troop deployment for its so-called Operation Barkhane in the Sahel by 600 to 5,100 soldiers.