Chad said its army repelled rebels advancing southwards towards the country’s capital, as the US ordered non-emergency staff at its embassy to leave the country.
A rebel convoy was intercepted in the southwestern Kanem region, 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 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 US 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 US, France and the UK said the rebels were advancing south. A separate rebel convoy was spotted approaching the town of Mao, about 186 miles north of N’Djamena, the UK 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. A 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 neighbouring Libya.