N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — Chad’s military claimed that it has killed some 300 rebels advancing on the capital, N’Djamena, as the government on Monday deployed tanks and other armed vehicles in the city’s streets.
The death toll given on state television and radio by army spokesman Azim Bermandoa Agouna came a day after the military declared that a rebel column had been “totally decimated” by Chadian soldiers.
It was not immediately possible to independently confirm the military’s claims given the remote location where the fighting took place.
Confusion and fear mounted in the capital as rumors swirled on social media about whether the Chadian rebels still posed a threat after the weekend clashes.
“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. “We don’t know exactly what is going on.”
The government called for calm as residents of the capital lined up to purchase fuel and stocked up on food at markets.
The Chadian rebel group, known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, is believed to have armed and trained in neighboring Libya before crossing into northern Chad on April 11. Their arrival came on the same day that President Idriss Deby sought a sixth term on election day, seeking to extend his more than three decades in power.
Deby has faced numerous rebellions during his time in power, most recently in 2019 when French armed forces intervened in northern Chad and launched airstrikes at an armed group coming in from Libya.
In 2008, clashes reached the gate of the presidential palace before Chad’s army repelled rebel forces and pursued them eastward toward the Sudanese border.
Chad, a former French colony, is home to France’s military Operation Barkhane, which deploys troops across the continent to fight Islamic extremism. The Chadian military also has played a major role in that effort, contributing troops to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Chadian soldiers also have long battled militants from the extremist group Boko Haram which started in northeastern Nigeria and spread to neighboring countries. Some 330,000 Chadians are internally displaced, the majority in the volatile Lake Chad region where Boko Haram fighters are most active.