N’DJAMENA (Reuters) - At least four people were killed in a gunfight in the Chadian capital in what authorities said was a plot against President Idriss Deby’s government, security sources said on Thursday.
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, who has won four elections, has become an ally of the West against Islamist militants in the region.
“Between four and eight people were killed in fighting at a military barracks in the east of N’Djamena,” said a police source, asking not to be identified. The clash took place late on Wednesday.
A military officer said at least a dozen people had been killed in separate clashes in a residential neighborhood, adding that a list of future government officials had also been discovered there - implying evidence of a coup plot.
Chad Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakary told state radio there had been “an attempt to destabilize the state”. He said earlier that a small group had been conspiring for months, but gave no details of who was involved.
The streets of the capital were calm by midday on Thursday with banks and shops open. Residents clustered around radio sets on street corners, or watched television in cafes.
The sources said security forces had made several arrests within the army and had detained at least one opposition member of parliament, Saleh Maki.
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.
The intervention, as well as 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, a charge Tripoli denied.
Residents in N’Djamena, where Deby narrowly survived a rebel offensive in 2008, remained in the dark about the latest events.
“We’d like to get more information about this group the government has said was behind the plot,” said Khamis Mahamat, a trader.
Reporting by Madjiasra Nako; Writing by Bate Felix and Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis and Alistair Lyon