The oil-rich African nation has become a key regional ally of the West in the fight against militants.

People drive past a Chad army tank near presidential palace in N'djamena, Chad on April 19, 2021.
People drive past a Chad army tank near presidential palace in N'djamena, Chad on April 19, 2021. (Reuters)

Chad is an oil-rich African nation that has become a key regional ally of the West in the fight against militants.

Veteran President Idriss Deby died from battle wounds sustained in the fight against rebels in the country's north, the army said on Tuesday, only a day after he was declared the winner of an April 11 election. 

Deby's son, Mahamat Kaka, was named interim president by a transitional council of military officers, spokesperson Azem Bermendao Agouna said on state television.

Deby, 68, came to power in a rebellion in 1990 and was one of Africa's longest-ruling leaders, surviving numerous coup attempts and rebellions.

His death could potentially deepen Chad's problems, and those of its allies. 

Here is a brief profile of the country:

Landlocked

Stretching from the Sahara desert of the inhospitable mountainous north bordering Libya to the fertile lowlands in the south, landlocked Chad is three times bigger than California.

Home to around 15 million people and scores of ethnic groups, just over half its population are Muslim with 35 percent Christian and the rest animist.

Multiple frontlines 

On the domestic front, the military is divided and the opposition bridling against years of repressive rule.

Chad faces military challenges on all of its borders.

In the west, in the region of Lake Chad, the army has been fighting the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram – which is allied to the Daesh terror group – since 2015.

Former colonial power France keeps troops in Chad and heads a multinational force based in N'Djamena since 2014 to combat militants across the Sahel region. Both France and the United States will be hoping that their counter-terrorism efforts are not now pushed off course after Deby.

Chad is also a member of a five-country regional military force, battling militias and terror groups, that also Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.

Eastern Chad, on the border with Sudan, has seen conflicts between different ethnic groups.

Northern Chad is also unstable, little populated and difficult to control. 

Several Chadian rebel groups have set up their base in neighbouring southern Libya.

The rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad or FACT, which is based across the northern frontier with Libya, attacked a border post on election day and then advanced hundreds of kilometres south through the vast country.

Fresh fighting erupted in the region, drawing in Deby who died, according to the army, from injuries sustained fighting rebels.

The army said it had killed more than 300 rebels and captured 150 more in eight days of fighting this month.

READ MORE: Chad seeks global support to tackle militancy in Sahel

Coups 

Chad has seen a succession of coups and rebellions since independence in 1960. 

It was wracked by civil war for three decades and has been invaded several times by Libya.

Idriss Deby Itno took power in December 1990 after ousting Hissene Habre, whom he had served as army chief.

Habre, dubbed "Africa's Pinochet", was sentenced by a special African court to life in jail in 2017 for crimes against humanity. More than 40,000 people are thought to have been murdered during his rule.

READ MORE: Fresh ethnic violence in southern Chad leaves many dead

Oil-rich but poor 

In 2003, Chad began to export oil to an Atlantic terminal through a pipeline built across neighbouring Cameroon.

Chad's government has been forced to cut back public spending in recent years because of the l ow price of oil, its main export, sparking labour strikes.

It suffered badly from the plunge in the price of crude in 2014.

It is ranked as one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world, with nearly two-fifths of the population living below the internationally recognised poverty line.

One out of five children born in Chad dies before the age of five and 40 percent suffer from delayed growth according to the World Bank, which estimates that 42 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

READ MORE: At least eight Chadian soldiers killed by landmine in militant area

Source: TRTWorld and agencies