Chad’s army said on Monday it had beaten back a column of insurgents, claiming to have halted a rebel advance towards the capital N’Djamena as the country awaits the final results of a presidential election last week.
The rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), based in Chad’s northern neighbour Libya, has made inroads south since it attacked a border post on election day and called for an end to President Idriss Deby’s 30-year rule.
Military spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna told Reuters army troops had killed more than 300 insurgents and captured 150 in the battle which took place on Saturday in the Kanem province, around 300 km from N’Djamena. Five government soldiers were killed and 36 were injured, he said.
Reuters was not able to independently verify details of the fighting or the tallies of casualties. The insurgents could not immediately be reached.
Chad’s election commission is expected on Monday to announce further results from the election. Deby appears on course to extend his mandate despite mounting discontent over his management of oil wealth, questions over the fairness of the polls and concerns about a crackdown on dissent.
Chadian state television on Sunday showed images of burnt vehicles and a small number of corpses dusted with sand. A crowd of soldiers cheered next to what state television said was dozens of captured rebel fighters, who sat with their hands tied behind their backs.
Deby has won a majority in all but two of the 84 departments announced so far, and secured a plurality in the other two, with 28 departments remaining, according to election commission figures.
But the unrest has raised alarm bells among Western countries which have seen Deby as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremism in the region.
The United States ordered all of its non-essential embassy staff to leave the country on Saturday. The British government had urged its citizens to leave the previous day.