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Chad junta refuses to negotiate with rebels, asks Niger to capture rebel leader

Soldiers attend the state funeral of late Chadian President Idriss Deby in N'Djamena, Chad, April 23, 2021. (Reuters)

Chad’s new ruling junta said Sunday it would not negotiate with rebels in the north of the poor Sahel country and asked for help from neighboring Niger to capture their leader.

“The time is not for mediation, nor for negotiation with outlaws,” Azem Bermandoa Agouna, spokesman of the military council that took power last week following the shock death of veteran leader Idriss Deby Itno.

On Saturday the rebels of the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) said they were prepared to observe a ceasefire, but a junta spokesman said the two sides were at war.

“They are rebels, which is why we are bombing them. We are waging war, that’s all,” Agouna said.

Deby reportedly died in battle early last week after fighting in which hundreds of FACT rebels were killed, according to the army.

On Sunday, claiming that FACT leader Mahamat Mahadi Ali had fled into Niger, the junta appealed to help from its neighbour to track him down.

“Chad calls for the cooperation and solidarity of Niger… to facilitate the capture and bringing to justice of these war criminals,” Agouna said in a statement.

Deby was buried last Friday in a state funeral attended by French President Emmanuel Macron.

France, the former colonial power in Chad, threw its support behind Deby’s son Mahamat, who took the helm as head of the junta with a pledge to hold elections in 18 months.

Chad was thrown into turmoil by Deby’s death, which was announced on Tuesday, just the day after he was declared the winner of an April 11 election — giving him a sixth mandate after 30 years at the helm.

He was a linchpin in the fight against the Sahel’s insurgency, and Macron pledged at the ceremony: “France will never let anyone, either today or tomorrow, challenge Chad’s stability and integrity.”

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