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Army assault kills Chad opposition leader ahead of election

By AFP
Chad Chadian soldiers block the road leading to the headquarters of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders' where  leader Yaya Dillo died during an army assault.  By - AFP
THU, 29 FEB 2024 LISTEN
Chadian soldiers block the road leading to the headquarters of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders' where leader Yaya Dillo died during an army assault. By - (AFP)

A leading opponent of Chad's ruling junta chief has died in an army assault on his party headquarters ahead of a May election when he was set to be the main rival to his cousin and transitional president Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno.

Yaya Dillo Djerou died on Wednesday "where he had retreated, at the headquarters of his party. He didn't want to surrender and fired on law enforcement," said government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah, who is also communications minister, said.

It came after Chad on Tuesday announced it would hold a presidential election on May 6, which both Deby Itno and Dillo -- who were cousins from the same Zaghawa ethnic minority -- planned to contest.

The prosecutor general earlier spoke of "dead including Yaya Dillo" without detailing the circumstances.

Roadblocks and heavy security were in place Thursday around the party's headquarters in Chad's capital where the army carried out the assault the previous day.

PSF party leader Yaya Dillo was set to be the main rival to his cousin and transitional presidentMahamat Idriss Deby Itno in a May election.  By Issouf SANOGO AFPFile PSF party leader Yaya Dillo was set to be the main rival to his cousin and transitional president Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno in a May election. By Issouf SANOGO (AFP/File)

Dillo, who led the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), was accused of having led an attack against the offices of the internal security agency overnight on Tuesday to Wednesday.

That came after the arrest of a PSF member accused of an "assassination attempt against the president of the supreme court".

Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, Dillo denied any involvement in the incident, denouncing the claim as a "lie" and politically motivated.

- 'To physically eliminate me'

"I wasn't present," he said.

"The desired goal is to prevent me, to physically eliminate me... to make me afraid so that I don't go to the election," Dillo said.

He also condemned the attempted attack against the supreme court president as "staged".

"Anyone looking to disturb the democratic process under way in the country will be prosecuted and brought to justice," the government said Wednesday.

Chad is France's last close partner in the Sahel region following the forced withdrawal of French troops from Mali in August 2022, Burkina Faso in February 2023 and Niger in December after military coups.

Dillo, 49, had been an armed rebel turned minister and finally an opposition chief considered a dangerous rival for his cousin.

Map showing the location of Chad's intelligence services in the capital N'Djamena, which was the target of an attack, the government said Wednesday..  By Sylvie HUSSON, Valentina BRESCHI AFP Map showing the location of Chad's intelligence services in the capital N'Djamena, which was the target of an attack, the government said Wednesday.. By Sylvie HUSSON, Valentina BRESCHI (AFP)

He was a candidate for the presidency in 2021 against his uncle, Idriss Deby Itno.

He fled the country in February of that year after security forces attempted to arrest him at his home.

The commando-style raid left several dead including his mother and one of his sons.

Deby Itno was proclaimed transitional president at the age of 37 after his father, Idriss Deby Itno, was killed while fighting rebels in 2021.

Mahamat Deby Itno had promised to hand power back to civilians and organise elections within 18 months, but subsequently extended the transition by other two years.

The opposition has asked the transitional president not to run for office in the central African country, which the United Nations ranks as the second-least developed in the world.

He had told the African Union he would not run, but a constitution adopted in a December referendum allows him to do so.

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