Chad’s President Idriss Deby was killed during a visit to front-line soldiers clashing with a rebel group, the military announced Tuesday, throwing the Central African nation deeper into crisis.
Deby took power during a rebellion in 1990 and was one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders. His death was announced just hours after he was declared winner of a presidential election that would have given him a sixth term in office, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The circumstances of his death were not immediately confirmed due to the remote location of the fighting. The military announced in televised remarks Tuesday that the late president died during “heroic combat” against insurgents, according to Reuters.
BREAKING: Chad’s President Idriss Deby has died, an army spokesman said on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/jzPN1zMs38
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“Marshal Idriss Deby 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,” said army spokesman Azem Bermendoa Agouna.
The nation is facing an ongoing insurgency sparked by the Libyan-based rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), formed by dissident army officers. The rebels threatened to take the capital N’Djamena after the military announced Deby’s death, according to the AP.
“The forces of the Front for Change and Concord are heading toward N’Djamena at this very moment. With confidence, but above all with courage and determination,” FACT announced in a statement Tuesday.
His death also raised concerns among Western nations, particularly France and the United States, who have relied on Chad as an important regional partner in the fight against terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram, according to Reuters. (RELATED: At Least 100 Killed By Islamic Extremists In Niger Villages)
State Department spokesman Ned Price, in a statement Tuesday, offered condolences on behalf of the U.S. government and called for a “peaceful transition of power” in accordance with Chad’s constitution.
The military named the late president’s son, Mahamat Deby, as interim leader. But political opposition leaders, many of whom boycotted this month’s presidential