N‘DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chadian authorities arrested two senior generals and a member of parliament allied to President Idriss Deby on suspicion of involvement in a foiled coup plot that security sources said left at least four people dead.
The incident has pointed to high-level divisions in the oil-producing nation that has sought to leave behind a turbulent past to become an ally of the West against al Qaeda-linked militants across Africa’s arid Sahel region.
Chad has a long history of political instability and Deby himself led rebel troops into the capital N‘Djamena in 1990 to seize power. But the landlocked nation started producing oil a decade ago and Deby has since won four elections in a row.
Prosecutor Mahamat Saleh Youssouf said a group of armed men tried to “destabilize the institutions of the republic” on Wednesday but the attempt was suppressed and several military and civilian officials arrested.
Youssouf named the detained generals as Weiddig Assi Assoue, who has served as a government minister, and Ngomine Beadmadji David, head of the military justice system.
Mahamat Malloum Kadre, a member of parliament for the ruling coalition, and opposition figure Saleh Maki were also taken into custody, the prosecutor said.
“The incident has been brought under control by the defense and security forces and those accused of carrying it out will be held accountable before the law.”
The streets of the capital were calm on Thursday with banks and shops open. Residents clustered around radio sets on street corners, or watched television in cafes.
Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakary said earlier that a small group had been conspiring for months.
A police source, who asked not to be identified, said between four and eight people were killed in fighting at a military barracks in the east of N‘Djamena on Wednesday.
A military officer said at least a dozen people had been killed in separate clashes in a residential neighborhood, and a list of officials to be named in a new government following Deby’s removal had also been discovered there.
Deby sent about 2,000 troops to Mali this year to help drive out Islamist fighters who had seized the northern two-thirds of the country, earning him the gratitude of France which spearheaded the military campaign there.
Underscoring French concern over the situation, Paris said on Thursday it recognized Chad’s role in the region but called on both the government and the opposition in the former French colony to engage in constructive dialogue.
The Mali intervention, and a decision not to defend the president of neighboring Central African Republic from a rebel takeover in March, highlighted Deby’s position as a regional power broker. But he has plenty of enemies at home and abroad.
The UFR, a Chadian rebel coalition that laid down its weapons in 2010, warned in March that it would relaunch its rebellion after Deby failed to enter talks with it.
Last week Deby accused neighboring Libya of letting Chadian mercenaries set up a training camp on its soil for use in trying to destabilize his country. Tripoli denied this.
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Bate Felix and Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis and Mark Heinrich