Over 250 Rebels Captured After Entering Chad
On Saturday, February 9, Chad’s military announced that it had captured over 250 rebels who had crossed through the country’s northeastern border from Libya. The rebels were confronted and captured in Chad’s Ennedi region.
More than 40 vehicles were destroyed and “several compromising documents” were seized in the process. The rebel groups made it more than 600 kilometers into the country before facing airstrikes and ultimately being captured.
The rebels, who are part of a coalition known as the Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR), are highly opposed to the rule of Chad’s current leader, President Idriss Déby, who has been in power since 1990. The UFR has long taken action to voice their opposition. In 2010, the UFR agreed to put “down their arms when Chad and Sudan agreed to end their proxy wars...by ceasing their support for insurgents in each other’s country.” However, the rebel group again took up arms in 2013 when President Déby failed to reach a compromise that they could accept.
“We’re tired of waiting. Our supporters on the ground are tired and are pushing us to fight given Déby’s obstinate refusal. We must resume fighting,” the group said.
France was instrumental in this recent effort, as it has been in many other military expeditions in Chad and carried out a number of airstrikes last week against what the Chadian government described as “a group of mercenaries and terrorists from Libya.” France claims the airstrikes were necessary to ensure the security of French troops stationed in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, although a number of Chadian opposition politicians have spoken out against France’s intervention calling it a “serious error.”
France has long been a significant source of military aid for Chad. Since August 2014, French troops have been part of an anti-insurgent operation called Operation Barkhane, headquartered in N’Djamena. The stated goal of the operation is “to become the French pillar of counterterrorism in the Sahel region” by fighting jihadist insurgents not only in Chad, but also in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
Chad’s military announced that it will continue its operation against militants in the Ennedi region.
The UFR has also vowed to continue its opposition to the government. Commenting on the recent capture of many of its members, UFR spokesman Youssouf Hamid said “a battle has been lost, but not the war.” He added, “We didn’t know that France would intervene. Normally, they do intelligence gathering, which we knew about. We didn’t expect them to carry out strikes. It wasn’t a fight between [UFR fighters] and Chadian fighters. It was France which did the fighting, not Chadians.”