Troops deployed, internet shut down in Chad’s capital amid deadly violence

Security forces surround main opposition party’s headquarters following clashes near Chad’s internal security agency.

Members of the security forces patrol Chad's capital N'Djamena following the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby in N'Djamena, Chad April 26, 2021.
Security forces have been deployed to N'Djamena's streets and internet services cut off after an attack on Chad's internal security agency [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Security forces in Chad have surrounded the headquarters of the Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), after accusing “elements” of the main opposition party of launching a deadly attack on the country’s internal security agency.

The violence in N’Djamena on Wednesday came as tensions rise ahead of a presidential election set for May and June that could return Chad to constitutional rule after three years of military-backed rule.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Abuja in neighbouring Nigeria, said the situation in N’Djamena remained fluid.

“We understand that the security operations are still ongoing. The headquarters of the Socialist Party Without Borders remain under siege. Security forces have been deployed on the streets of the capital. Internet and telephones have been disrupted in most parts of the country,” he said.

“Earlier in the day, I spoke to people in N’Djamena who said they were pinned down because of heavy gunfire in the centre of the city, not far from the presidential palace and the PSF’s headquarters.”

The siege on PSF’s headquarters came after Chad’s government issued a statement saying several people had been killed in an overnight attack on the National State Security Agency (ANSE).

Blaming activists from the PSF for the attack, the government said “the situation is now completely under control”.

It added, “The perpetrators of this act have been arrested or are being sought and will be prosecuted.”

The government did not say how many people were killed in the attack.

Detailing a separate incident, the government said a member of the PSF, Ahmed Torabi, had carried out an assassination attempt against the president of the Supreme Court, Samir Adam Annour.

Torabi was arrested, it said.

The PSF, however, gave a different account of the incidents.

Party leader Yahya Dillo said the attack on the Supreme Court was “staged” while PSF’s general secretary told the Reuters news agency that the deaths near the security agency occurred when soldiers opened fire at a group of party members.

He said Torabi had been shot dead on Tuesday and his body was deposited at the agency’s headquarters.

When party members and Torabi’s relatives went to look for his body at the agency, soldiers shot at them which resulted in multiple deaths, the general secretary added.

The attack on the ANSE happened just hours after Chad announced that it would hold a presidential election on May 6.

Opposition figure Dillo and his fierce opponent, Chad’s transitional President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, intend to contest. Both men are cousins.

Deby Itno came to power after his father, Idriss Deby Itno, was killed while fighting rebels in 2021, after ruling the desert nation for three decades.

The younger Deby had pledged to hand over power to an elected government after 18 months – a deadline that was not achieved before postponing the election to this year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies