Chad’s army clashed with rebels on Thursday outside the town of Nokou, the army said. Nokou is 12 miles from where President Idriss Deby was killed, while visiting troops on the frontline, 10 days ago.

The army has been battling the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in the Kanem desert region along the border with Niger since mid-April. FACT draws mostly from the Goran ethnic group.

During the most recent fighting, the army claimed to have wiped out “several hundred” rebels. 

“On April 29, the defense and security forces finished dealing with the rebel band that intruded towards Nokou in northern Kanem,” army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said.

He added that the operation resulted in “several hundred rebels neutralized [and] 66 taken prisoner.” Six Chadian soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Violence Erupts in Chad as People Protest the Constitution’s Dissolution

A Chadian Army Soldier pulls security during a simulated assault in Faya-Largeau, Chad March 2017 as part of Flintlock 17. Flintlock is an annual special operations exercise involving more than 20 nation forces. The exercise strengthens security institutions, promotes multinational sharing of information, and develops interoperability among partner nations in North and West Africa. (Photo by Sgt. Derek Hamilton/U.S. Army)

After Deby was killed, a military council headed by his son took control of the government and announced the dissolution of the legislative assembly and constitution.

“The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security, and the republican order,” Agouna added.

The council vowed to hold elections within 18 months. However, many opposition politicians have accused the army of conducting a coup and protests have been ongoing.

Earlier this week, Chad’s capital of Moundou became the scene of violent protests against the military takeover. Six people were killed in the clashes between the security forces and demonstrators. Security forces arrested more than 650 people during the protests.

General Agouna said that opposition leaders must refrain from attacking security forces. “This so-called peaceful demonstration paradoxically resulted in the deliberate destruction of 15 national police vehicles and two gas stations belonging to the Total company,” he stated. “In addition, there were intentional assaults on law enforcement officers while on duty.”

A Clash of Claims

During the recent fighting with FACT, the rebels claimed to have captured the city of Nokou after shooting down an army helicopter that had been attacking their fighters. Yet, the army disputes that saying the MI-24 helicopter suffered a “mechanical failure” that caused its crash. The army added that Nokou remained in government control and that Chad’s artillery had been shelling rebel positions.
A Russian-built MI-24 Hind gunship, similar to the ones used by the Chadian Army. (Wikimedia Commons)

Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol, a spokesman for the FACT rebels condemned the Chadian military airstrikes. “[The army] lacks the courage to fight on the ground,” de Tapol said.

“Any aircraft flying over our positions will be treated as hostile to the Chadian people and will be shot down without warning,” he added. The rebels also accused the military of employing Sudanese mercenaries.

Meanwhile, the military council and transitional government’s appointee Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, met with the American and French ambassadors earlier this week. They discussed the formation of a unity government and a timeline for holding elections.