Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has mourned President Idriss Deby of Chad, describing him as a gallant leader.
Deby, who was newly re-elected for the sixth term, died on Tuesday from injuries sustained while fighting rebels.
Buhari, in a condolence message by his media assistant, Malam Garba Shehu, expressed sadness over “the sudden and tragic death of President Deby on the front line, fighting against rebel soldiers.”
He said: “I’m deeply shocked and devastated by the sudden death of Idriss Deby on the battlefront to defend the sovereignty of his country.
“The late Deby had played a very active role in our regional joint collaboration in the military campaign against the Boko Haram terrorists.”
Buhari described the late Chadian leader as “a friend of Nigeria who had enthusiastically lent his hand in our efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram terrorists that have posed grave security challenges not only for Nigeria but also our African neighbours, particularly Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.”
He added that “the death of Deby will surely create a big vacuum in the efforts to jointly confront the Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province.”
While condoling with the people of Chad and their new leader, Buhari called for greater collaboration to defeat the terrorists.
The late Chadian leader had in July 2020 joined the country’s soldiers in the frontline to fight Boko Haram terrorists.
Deby had appeared in military fatigue as he led an operation to drive out the terrorists from Chadian territory.
The operation codenamed “Operation Wrath of Bomo,” came after terrorists dealt the heaviest blow to the Chadian military after an assault killed over 90 soldiers.
The offensive took place at Kelkoua bank and Magumeri where the Chadian army destroyed several Boko Haram bunkers recovered cache of arms and arrested a top Boko Haram commander.
The Chadian troops were also said to have set free some Nigerian soldiers held captive by terrorists at Magumeri LGA of Borno State.
Deby had later announced that Boko Haram had been completely removed from Chadian territory.
“I went down this morning to Kaiga-Kindjinria. No element of Boko Haram is present in the islands of Lake Chad. Congratulations to our defence and security forces who have cleaned up the entire island area,” he had tweeted.
Deby also met with the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force fighting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, Nigeria’s Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Yusuf, in Kaiga-Kindjinria, where they discussed security deployments on the islands of Lake Chad.
Meanwhile, following the death of Deby, his four-star-General son will replace him at the head of a military council, the army has announced.
“A military council has been set up headed by his son, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno,” the army’s spokesman, Gen. Azem Bermandoa Agouna, said on state radio, shortly after the announcement that the newly re-elected president had died of wounds while fighting rebels.
The late Deby, who had been in power for three decades, died from injuries while fighting rebels in the north of the Sahel country, the army said. He was aged 68.
A two-week national mourning period was declared amid a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
All the land and air borders in the country have also been shut “until further notice.”
The military council said the transitional period would last for 18 months while the cabinet and the parliament would be dissolved.
Like his father, Deby, 37, has also been involved in the fight against rebel forces and Boko Haram insurgents.
There has been a prolonged battle in the African country between government forces and the rebel Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).
The unrest had escalated in recent days as anti-government fighters approached N’Djamena, the capital city.
The Chadian army spokesperson said the country’s forces “defeated a group of terrorists who had ventured into the north of the Kanem province.”
The army had on Monday announced that fighting left some 300 rebels of FACT dead, while FACT claimed in a statement that Deby had been wounded.
Deby “has just breathed his last, defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield over the weekend,” Agouna, said in a statement read out on state television.
The career military man who seized power in the former French colony on the back of a 1990 coup had been declared re-elected late Monday with nearly 80 per cent of the vote.
Ministers and high-ranking military brass had said Monday that Deby was in the region on Saturday and Sunday after rebels launched an offensive from rear bases in Libya on the day of the election, April 11.
The result was never in serious doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja