Chad rebels threaten to depose slain president's son

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Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, 37, the son of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, is seen during a military broadcast announcing the death of his father on state television Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Deby, who ruled the central African nation for more than three decades, was killed on the battlefield Tuesday, April 20, 2021 in a fight against rebels, the military announced on national television and radio. Onscreen writing in French reads "Security - In a moment a very important communique from the General Staff of the Military - Urgent". (Tele Tchad via AP)

N'DJAMENA – N'Rebels in Chad threatened to depose the son of the country's slain president after he was named interim leader of the strategic central African nation, raising the specter Wednesday of a violent power struggle.

It was not certain how close the rebel column was to N'Djamena, the capital city of 1 million people, or whether the military would remain loyal to Mahamat Idriss Deby following his father's sudden death after three decades in power.

The rebel group that the military blamed for President Idriss Deby Itno's killing said Wednesday in a statement that they were giving his family until midnight to bury him. The fighters gave no indication of their positions after saying the day before that they were “heading toward N’Djamena at this very moment.”

The group known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad again decried Deby's son assuming the presidency. The 37-year-old army commander was chosen to lead an 18-month transition instead of following constitutional protocol after his father's death.

“We call on all justice-loving Chadians to join us in this struggle to stop our dear republic from becoming a monarchy,” the statement said.

In a bid to further legitimize Mahamat Idriss Deby's position, the National Assembly president said late Wednesday that he supported the decision to bypass him and appoint the military council to lead the transition instead. The statement came amid an outcry from opposition figures who said the constitution's rules for presidential succession had not been followed.

The rebel group's claim of advancing on the capital could not be independently verified, but it created panic in N’Djamena, which another rebel group attacked back in 2008 before being repelled by government forces.

The ruling Transitional Military Council also warned that the fight was not yet over for control of Chad.