By Felix Tih and Rodrigue Forku
ANKARA/YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AA) – Several African leaders on Tuesday expressed grief over the death of their Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby Itno.
This is "a great loss for Chad and for all of Africa," the Democratic Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi, who is also the chairman of the African Union, said in a statement.
The Chadian president died during military operations that pitted the Chadian armed forces against rebels in the north over the weekend, the army said on Tuesday.
On the frontlines of Chad's battle against rebels, Deby, 68, died just a day after his re-election for a sixth term.
The Chadian army announced late on Sunday that it had killed more than 300 rebels in the northern part of the Central African country.
The rebels were from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), the army said in a press release. Fighting started a day after the April 11 presidential elections.
On Saturday, the US Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency US government employees from its embassy in the capital N'Djamena, fearing political unrest and violence.
Following his death, the military announced an 18-month transitional council led by Deby's son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno. The 37-year-old is now African's youngest leader.
A curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. is put in place throughout the national territory, land and air borders are closed until further notice and a transitional government will be put in place, the military said.
– 'May your soul rest in peace'
Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina conveyed his condolences to the people of Chad, saying: "Farewell Marshal, may your soul rest in peace."
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said Deby was "a great Pan-Africanist, committed with conviction and determination, in the fight against terrorism in the Lake Chad basin and in the Sahel."
For his part, Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba said Chad can count on the support and solidarity of Gabon "in this painful ordeal."
Mohamed Bazoum, the newly-elected Nigerien president, also offered his condolences to Deby's family and to the Chadian people. "May Allah welcome him to paradise."
Cameroon's President Paul Biya said Deby's death "is an immense loss for Chad, Central Africa and our continent, which he will have served relentlessly."