Chad’s newly re-elected President Idriss Deby Itno has died of injuries while fighting rebels in the north of the Sahel country.
The shocking announcement came only the day after the 68-year-old was proclaimed the winner of a presidential election that had given him a sixth term in office.
The army said Deby had been commanding his army at the weekend as it battled against rebels who had launched a major incursion into the north of the country on election day.
Deby “has just breathed his last breath defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield,” army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement read out on state television.
Deby, 68, had ruled Chad for three decades but was a key ally in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the troubled Sahel region.
The army said a military council led by the late president’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, a four-star general, would replace him.
On Monday, the army had claimed a “great victory” in its battle against the rebels from neighbouring Libya, saying it had killed 300 fighters, with the loss of five soldiers in its own ranks during eight days of combat.
Deby would have been one of the longest-serving leaders in the world, after provisional results showed him winning the April 11 election.
He was a herder’s son from the Zaghawa ethnic group who took the classic path to power through the army and relished the military culture.
His latest election victory — with almost 80 percent of the vote — had never been in doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
Deby had campaigned on a promise of bringing peace and security to the region, but his pledges were undermined by the rebel incursion.