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Chadian President Idriss Déby dies on military frontline one day after winning sixth term in office

Chad's President Idriss Déby has died while visiting troops on the frontline of a fight against northern rebels, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.


Key points:


  • Chad President Idriss Deby was visiting army troops fighting "terrorists"
  • The cause of his death has not been announced
  • He had been leader of the African nation since 1990
  • His death comes one day after he was declared the winner of the country's election.


Mr Déby's campaign said on Monday that he was headed to the frontline to join troops battling "terrorists".


Rebels based across the northern frontier in Libya attacked a border post on election day and then advanced hundreds of kilometres south across the desert towards the capital, N'Djamena.


Army spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna announced the president's death in a broadcast on state television.


"Marshal Idriss Déby Itno, as he did each time that the institutions of the republic were gravely threatened, took control of operations during the heroic combat led against the terrorists from Libya," Me Bermendao said.


"He was wounded during the fighting and died once repatriated to N'Djamena."


The spokesman was surrounded by a group of military officers he referred to as the National Council of Transition.


"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.


"The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security and the republican order."


General Mahamat Kaka, the son of Mr Déby, has been named interim head of state.


Western countries have seen Mr Déby as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.


Mr Déby was also dealing with mounting public discontent over his management of Chad's oil wealth and crackdowns on opponents.


His election victory had given him a sixth term in office but the April 11 vote was boycotted by opposition leaders.


Mr Déby, 68, came to power in a rebellion in 1990 and was one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.


Death could lead to more uncertainty


Mr Déby's death could mean tremendous uncertainty for Chad as the military is internally divided and because of the widespread domestic opposition, according to Nathaniel Powell, author of a history of French military involvement in Chad.


"The swift announcement of the establishment of a military council and naming his son Mahamat as head of state however indicates regime continuity," Mr Powell told Reuters.


"This probably aims to counter any coup-making efforts from within the security establishment and to reassure Chad's international partners — especially France but also the United States — that they can still count on the country for its continued contributions to international counter-terrorist efforts in the Sahel."


The latest rebel actions had already caused alarm in Western capitals.


The rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which is based across the northern frontier with Libya, attacked a border post on election day and then advanced hundreds of kilometres south.


But the Chadian military appeared to have slowed its advance about 300 km from N'Djamena.


The rebels acknowledged on Monday that they suffered losses on Saturday but said they were back on the move on Sunday and Monday.

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