Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno died on a battlefield Tuesday in the fight against rebels who opposed his rule, the central African nation’s military announced.
The news comes just hours after electoral officials had declared Deby – who has led Chad for more than three decades — the winner of an April 11 presidential election, paving the way for him to stay in power for six more years.
An 18-month transitional council will now be led by Deby’s 37-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, the military said, while a nightly curfew of 6 p.m. will be in effect.
The circumstances of Deby’s death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location of the battlefield, the Associated Press reports. It was not known why the president would have visited the frontlines in northern Chad or participated in ongoing clashes with the rebels who opposed his rule.
Deby, a 68-year-old former army commander-in-chief, first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.
Over the years Deby had survived numerous armed rebellions and managed to stay in power until this latest insurgency led by a group calling itself the Front for Change and Concord in Chad.
The rebels are believed to have armed and trained in neighboring Libya before crossing into northern Chad on April 11. Their arrival came on the same day that Chad’s president sought a sixth term on election day, which several top opposition candidates boycotted.
Deby was a major French ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, hosting the base for the French military Operation Barkhane and supplying critical troops to the peacekeeping effort in northern Mali.
Deby’s son, Mahamat, has served as a top commander for Chadian forces taking part in that effort.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.