Chad President Idriss Deby Itno Dies Hours After Winning Re-Election

Chad President Idriss Deby Itno, 68, died on Tuesday from battleground wounds inflicted from a fight with rebels hours after officials declared he was re-elected as the African country's president, the country's military announced on national television and radio Tuesday.

Deby, who had been Chad's president for more than 30 years, won the country's April 11 presidential election that would have secured his leadership for the next six years, the Associated Press reported.

"In the face of this worrying situation, the people of Chad must show their attachment to peace, to stability, and to national cohesion," Chad General Azem Bermandoa Agouma said.

Deby's son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, 37, will lead an 18-month transitional council, according to the military, AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno
Chad President Idriss Deby Itno (center) greets a crowd of journalists and supporters as he arrives to cast his ballot at a polling station in N'djamena on April 11, 2021. Chad's military announced on Tuesday that Deby died from battle wounds hours after he was re-elected. Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images

A nightly curfew of 6 p.m. will be imposed in Chad, the military said.

The circumstances of Deby's death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location of the fighting.

The military said Deby had taken "the heroic lead in combat operations against terrorists who had come from Libya." After being wounded in battle, he then was taken to the capital, the general announced.

However, some foreign observers questioned how a head of state could have been killed, saying it cast doubt on his protective guard. The Chadian military had only acknowledged five deaths in weekend fighting in which it said it had killed 300 rebels.

"We still don't have the whole story," Laith Alkhouri, a global intelligence adviser, told AP. "It raises concerns regarding the security forces' assessment of the clashes and their intelligence regarding the severity of the situation."

Other analysts pointed to Deby's long history of visiting the battlefield as a former army commander-in-chief himself.

"There's no evidence to suggest this was a coup committed by his troops. Anyone who follows Deby knows he used to say 'to lead troops you have to smell the gunpowder,'" tweeted Cameron Hudson with the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

Deby first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.

Over the years, Deby had survived numerous armed rebellions and managed to stay in power until this latest insurgency led by a group calling itself the Front for Change and Concord in Chad.

The rebels are 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 Chad's president sought a sixth term on election day, which several top opposition candidates boycotted.

Deby was a major French ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, hosting the base for the French military's Operation Barkhane and supplying critical troops to the peacekeeping effort in northern Mali.

Deby's son, Mahamat, has served as a top commander for Chadian forces taking part in that effort.