Chad army says ‘several hundred’ rebels killed

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Chad’s army on Friday said it had killed “several hundred” rebels over two days of fighting in the country’s west, where President Idriss Deby Itno was killed at the front line this month. The announcement came as the UN said over 700 people were arrested following demonstrations against the new military regime.

“On April 29, the defence and security forces finished dealing with the rebel band that intruded towards Nokou in northern Kanem,” army spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement.

Nokou is around 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the capital N’Djamena.

Agouna said “several hundred rebels” were “neutralised” and 66 others were taken prisoner while six soldiers were killed.

The army has since mid-April been fighting the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), drawn mainly from the Goran ethnic group, in the Kanem desert region along the border with Niger.

Clinching 80 percent of the vote in the presidential election on April 11, the same day the rebels launched their offensive, Deby oficially died of wounds suffered while leading troops against FACT.

He had ruled Chad with an iron fist since taking power on the back of a coup in 1990.

Since his death, his son Mahamat Deby Itno has taken power at the head of a military junta and vowed to destroy FACT.

More than 700 protesters arrested, says UN

The younger Deby’s appointment sparked mass protests in the central African nation as civil society groups renewed calls for more protests over the weekend.

More than 700 people have been arrested in Chad following this week’s demonstrations against the new military government, the UN said Friday.

UN human rights office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said it was not known how many of the people arrested after Tuesday’s demonstrations are still being detained.

“As further protests and general strikes have been called to take place in the coming days, we stress that Chad remains bound by its obligations under international human rights law to protect and respect human rights, including the right to life, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” she said in Geneva.

Witnesses say security forces fired live ammunition at Tuesday’s demonstrations, which took place in Chad’s two largest cities, N’Djamena and Moundou. A military spokesman has disputed that the anti-government protests were peaceful, saying a crowd killed a retired police officer amid the unrest.

Streets remained calm but heavily patrolled by the military on Friday, as many of N’Djamena’s residents flocked to mosques for prayers during the third week of Ramadan.

Chad’s political opposition also has called for interim military government to step down, saying that power should have been ceded to the National Assembly president in the aftermath of Deby’s killing. 

A coalition of civil society groups has called for people to take to the streets on Saturday to demand “a return to constitutional order”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)