By Mahamat Ramadane
N’DJAMENA (Reuters) – At least four people were shot and wounded in Chad’s southern Mandoul region on Saturday when security forces fired upon a crowd demonstrating against last month’s military takeover, witnesses and hospital sources said.
Protesters in the town of Sarh, about 550 kilometres (340 miles) from the capital N’Djamena, banged pots and pans in a show of defiance against the military council that has taken over since Chad’s longtime ruler Idriss Deby was killed last month.
Police responded by firing into the crowd with live ammunition, witnesses said. One person who was shot in the abdomen is in critical condition, according to a medical worker who requested anonymity.
“Two of my friends were wounded by gunshots right in front of me, and spent more than an hour on the spot before they could be transported to the hospital,” Allaissem Bernodji Manace, who protested in Sarh, told Reuters.
“We lived through a terrible scene,” he said.
Civil society leaders in the neighbouring town of Koumra said that a dozen people were arrested during a parallel protest, to which security forces responded with beatings and teargas.
A representative of Chad’s military council declined to comment on the actions of security forces, but said the protesters were “just young people who marched through the streets creating traffic jams.”
The demonstrations in Mandoul occurred at the same time as a funeral for five people in N’Djamena who were killed on Tuesday during clashes between protesters and security forces.
The army’s response to those protests was condemned by some of Chad’s strongest allies, including France, the United States and the African Union.
The military council, led by Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, has promised to hold elections within 18 months. Deby was killed on April 19 as he visited troops fighting rebels opposed his 30-year rule.
Chad’s transition is being closely monitored by its Western allies, who have worked with the central African nation to combat militants across the Sahel.
(Reporting by Mahamat Ramadane; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Christina Fincher)