The Chadian armed forces have announced that President Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled the former French colony for over three decades, was killed on the battlefield.
The announcement on Tuesday on national TV and radio said Mr. Deby died in a fight against rebels.
It said an eighteen-month transitional council will be led by Mr. Deby’s thirty-seven-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno. It also imposed a nightly curfew of 6 pm.
The shock announcement came just hours after electoral officials had declared Mr. Deby the winner of the April 11 presidential election, paving the way for him to stay in power for another six years.
The circumstances of the president’s death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location of the said battlefield.
There has been no explanation why the Mr. Deby would have visited the frontlines in northern Chad or participated in ongoing clashes with the rebels who opposed his rule.
A former army commander-in-chief, Mr. Deby first came to power in 1990, when his rebel forces ousted then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.
Over the years, Mr. 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 senior opposition candidates boycotted.
Mr. 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.
His son, Mahamat, has served as a senior commander for Chadian forces taking part in that effort.