Chad's army says rebel column in the north 'destroyed'

Idriss Déby at the Paris Peace Forum in 2019

Deby, 68, had ruled Chad with an iron fist for three decades but was a key ally in the West's anti-jihadist campaign in the troubled Sahel region.

He was re-elected for a six-year term with 79.32% of the votes cast, according to provisional results announced on Monday evening by the national electoral body.

Former prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacke came in second, while Lydie Beassemda came third.

Chad's President Idriss Deby, who ruled his country for more than 30 years and was an important Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants in Africa, has been killed on the frontline in a battle against rebels in the north.

Officially nine candidates were running against Deby, but three withdrew and called for the vote to be boycotted - though the Supreme Court kept their names on the ballots.

A Reuters reporter in N'Djamena said people were in a panic as news of his death spread, fearing that fighting could break out in the city.

The tanks were withdrawn in the late morning apart from a perimeter around the president's office, which is already under heavy security during normal times.

The army had on Monday announced that fighting left some 300 rebels of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad dead, while FACT claimed in a statement that Deby had been wounded - a report that official sources could not confirm.

"Five days ago, the government was talking about terrorists in the Faya area, but today we are told that the rebels are in the Mao area", said high school teacher Jean Djimasde, suggesting that the rebels appear to have moved closer to the capital.

The government called for calm as residents of the capital lined up to purchase fuel and stocked up on food at markets. Due to their growing proximity to N'Djamena, and the possibility for violence in the city, non-essential USA government employees have been ordered to leave Chad by commercial airline.

"I'd rather die than witness instability in Chad", he said.

The UFR said Sunday that it supported FACT, but without saying whether its fighters took part in Saturday's clash. Such claims in remote desert combat zones are hard to verify.

In the Tibesti massacre along the border with Libya, rebels regularly confront the Chadian army.

The army has announced that a curfew has been imposed and borders should be immediately shut after the death of President Deby. French air strikes were needed to stop an incursion there in early 2019.

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