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French fighter jets bomb Chadian rebels in support of Deby's regime

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By Sandrine Amiel  with Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron with Chad's President Idriss Deby, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron with Chad's President Idriss Deby, 2018   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French fighter jets conducted airstrikes against rebels in northeastern Chad for three consecutive days.

The French army said it had come after a rebel convoy of about 50 pick-up trucks crossed from Libya into Chadian territory. Chadian air strikes had unsuccessfully attempted to destroy them on February 1-2.

“Faced with this situation, Chadian and French authorities decided on new strikes, conducted by Mirage 2000 fighter jets on 5 and 6 February,” the French army said, adding that about 20 pick-up trucks were destroyed in the operation.

The strikes come as Chadian rebels have increased their activities in southern Libya since vowing last year to overthrow President Idriss Deby.

The Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR), a rebel Chadian coalition created in 2009 after almost toppling Deby, has said it was behind this week’s incursion.

Since he seized power in 1990 in a military coup, Idriss Deby's legitimacy has been questioned. International observers have raised doubts at the fairness of elections that have kept him in office since. Last year he pushed through constitutional reforms that could keep him in office until 2033, drawing criticism from domestic opposition.

Yet Deby's regime is widely perceived by its Western allies as a key partner in the fight against Islamic terror groups, which is why he has retained their support thus far.

Paris has based its 4,500-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force in N’Djamena, where the United States also has a base.

“The Chadian army is an essential partner in the fight against terrorism in Mali ... the G5 force and its action against Boko Haram”, the French military statement said.