Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Chad jails 243 rebels over February incursion from Libya

French aircraft stopped the incursion in February

Chad president Idriss Deby. AFP
Chad president Idriss Deby. AFP

Chad has given jail terms to 243 rebels who crossed into the country from Libya in February before their incursion was halted by French air strikes, the Chadian government said on Tuesday.

Of 267 people who were arrested, 12 were sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison and 231 for between 10 and 15 years, Justice Minister Djimet Arabi told AFP.

Twenty-four detained minors were released, Mr Arabi said.

He said the sentences were given by a "special criminal court" that issued life sentences against about a dozen rebel leaders living outside Chad, including their chief Timan Erdimi, in their absence.

The Union of Resistance Forces, an armed group opposed to Chadian President Idriss Deby, is based in the desert of southern Libya.

In February, its fighters crossed into north-eastern Chad in a column of 40 pickup trucks, travelling 595 kilometres into the country before they were halted by strikes from French warplanes based near the Chadian capital N'Djamena.

The aircraft attacked the convoy for three days, after which the Chadian army moved in.

France is the former colonial power in Chad and an ally of Mr Deby, who seized power in 1990 with French help.

French forces are stationed in Chad as part of a strategy to fight extremism in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last December, President Emmanuel Macron visited the country to support his troops, bringing his chef to provide a Christmas meal.

The French military said at the time of February's incident that the Chadian air force had carried out strikes to try to repel the rebels, before asking the French to intervene.

Mr Arabi said the special court had convened in Koro Toro, a prison in desert to the north of the country. Proceedings began on August 20.

"The rebels were sentenced yesterday after a fair trial," he said.

Updated: August 29, 2019 03:21 PM

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