Chad’s President Idriss Deby has won a sixth term, provisional election results showed, as the army said it had beaten back a column of fighters advancing on the capital, Ndjamena.
The 68-year-old Deby, who came to power in a rebellion in 1990, took 79.3 percent of the vote in the April 11 election, the results showed on Monday.
Top opposition leaders had boycotted the vote.
Deby was expected to give a victory speech to supporters but his campaign director, Mahamat Zen Bada, said he had instead gone to visit Chadian soldiers on the front lines.
“The candidate would have liked to have been here to celebrate … but right now, he is alongside our valiant defence and security forces to fight the terrorists threatening our territory,” Zen Bada told reporters.
The rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which is based across the northern frontier with Libya, attacked a border post on election day and then advanced hundreds of kilometres south.
But it suffered a setback over the weekend.
Chad’s military spokesman, Azem Bermendao Agouna, told the Reuters news agency that army troops killed more than 300 fighters and captured 150 on Saturday in Kanem province, around 300 kilometres (185 miles) from Ndjamena.
Five government soldiers were killed and 36 were injured, he said.
Chadian state television on Sunday showed images of a crowd of soldiers cheering next to what state television said were dozens of captured rebel fighters, who sat with their hands tied behind their backs.
It was not possible to independently verify the number of casualties.
FACT said in a statement that an “error” on Saturday had “slowed by a little bit the victorious march … to Ndjamena” but that the rebels had routed the army in battle on Sunday and Monday, killing, wounding and capturing hundreds of soldiers.
Chadian rebel leader Mahamat Mahdi Ali, meanwhile, told French radio that his forces had temporarily retreated and accused former coloniser France of intervening in the crisis. In his comments to Radio France Internationale, he claimed the French military had conducted reconnaissance flights that had given an unfair advantage to government forces.
France has not commented publicly on the rebel crisis in Chad.
There was panic in some areas of Ndjamena earlier on Monday after tanks were deployed along the city’s main roads, according to AFP.
The tanks were withdrawn in the late morning apart from a perimeter around the president’s office, which is under heavy security during normal times.
“The establishment of a security deployment in certain areas of the capital seems to have been misunderstood,” government spokesman Cherif Mahamat Zene said on Twitter.
“There is no particular threat to fear,” he added.
The unrest has raised alarm bells among Western countries, which have seen Deby as an ally in the fight against armed groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group in the Sahel.
Deby, who has long faced armed groups in the north, is also dealing with mounting public discontent over his management of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on opponents.
But his re-election was never in serious doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
The United States ordered all of its non-essential embassy staff to leave the country on Saturday. The British government had urged its citizens to leave the previous day.
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