Fresh fighting in western Chad pits Libya-based rebels against forces loyal to a new military junta led by deceased President Deby's son.

People drive past a Chad army tank near presidential palace in NDjamena, Chad on April 19, 2021.
People drive past a Chad army tank near presidential palace in NDjamena, Chad on April 19, 2021. (Reuters)

Government troops and rebels have clashed in a region of western Chad where President Idriss Deby Itno was killed earlier this month, a spokesperson has said.

The fighting on Thursday in the desert region of Kanem, near Chad's border with Niger, pits Libya-based rebels against forces loyal to a new military junta led by Deby's son.

Fiercely criticised for authoritarianism and inequality, Deby was seen as a trusty ally by many Western countries including the former colonial power France, especially in the fight against militants in the wider Sahel region on the southern fringes of the Sahara desert.

"Fighting is continuing in Kanem — we are going to have continue to fight, otherwise they will destabilise us," junta spokesperson General Azem Bermandoa Agouna told AFP.

The so-called Military Transition Council (CMT) is headed by 37-year-old Mahamat Idriss Deby.

 MORE: Macron claims a change to France’s Chad policy, Chadians aren’t convinced

Renewed fighting

For now the fighting against the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), drawn mainly from the Goran ethnic group, is going on about 300 km (180 miles) north of the capital NDjamena.

Security sources, without giving further details, said the Chadian army bombarded FACT positions.

Deby, 68, died on April 19 from wounds he suffered fighting the Libya-based rebels, according to the authorities.

The insurgents had launched an offensive in the northern Tibesti region on April 11 as presidential elections were unfolding.

A career soldier who seized power in 1990 and exercised it ruthlessly for 30 years, Deby died on the day that the electoral commission confirmed that he had won a landslide victory, the authorities say.

READ MORE: Will Deby's death fuel instability in Chad and across the Sahel?

No 'mediation or negotiation'

FACT is led by Mahamat Mahadi Ali, a veteran insurgent who previously lived in France.

The group vowed to pursue its offensive after a pause for Deby's funeral on April 23.

Experts believe FACT has between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters.

The Chadian army claimed on April 19 to have killed 300 rebels and captured 246 others, who were being taken to the capital NDjamena to stand trial.

Military casualties have not been made public.

The armed forces have recently sent reinforcements to Kanem, security forces said.

On Sunday, the CMT announced there would be no "mediation or negotiation" with FACT and called on Niger to help it capture the group's chief.

The CMT took over on April 20, immediately after Deby's death was announced, as parliament and government were dissolved.

It has promised an 18-month transition period before "free and transparent" elections.

READ MORE: Rebels in Chad 'prepared to observe ceasefire'

Hundreds arrested at protests 

At least six people died on Tuesday in banned protests against the junta, according to the authorities, while a local NGO reported nine fatalities.

Prosecutors said on Thursday that they were interviewing over 700 people arrested at demonstrations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dozens of arrested protesters were brought in police vehicles to the capital's high court on Thursday from different police stations around the city.

"A majority of them have already been through and many have been released," NDjamena prosecutor Youssouf Tom told AFP.

On Monday, the military junta appointed Albert Pahimi Padacke as transitional prime minister. He called for a nationwide effort to speed the return to civilian rule.

READ MORE: Protests turn deadly in Chad as demonstrators demand civilian rule

Source: TRTWorld and agencies