French warplanes in Chad attacks Libyan rebels, prevents incursion

France considers its former colony as vital in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa and based its 4,500-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force in the capital N’djamena where the United States also has a base.

French warplanes based in Chad carried out an airstrike to prevent Libyan armed militias from crossing into norther Chad in a column of 40 pickup trucks. According to the French military spokesman Patrik Steiger , it said that French forces acted at the behest of the Chadian Governement request.

“This intervention at the request of Chadian authorities helped hinder this hostile advance and disperse the column,”

French Military

The warplanes which are the Mirage 2000s are based near N’Djamena, the Chadian capital, as part of France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism force in the Sahel.The airstrikes were against the rebel Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR) based in southern Libya which just recently increased its activities last year in a bid to topple the Chadian President Idriss Deby.

France unsettling a ‘Hornet’s Nest’ in Chad

Following the airstrikes, rebels from the CCMSR warned France that its support for Deby could stir “hostility towards the French.” In response, the French military said that Mirage 2000 fighters intervened “together with the Chadian army” to “halt the hostile advance and disperse the column,” which had crossed deep into Chadian territory.

The CCMSR which is a splinter group of the Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR). A rebel Chadian coalition established in 2009. “The aim is to bring Deby down,” a UFR official said. “We thought France would not intervene in Chad’s internal affairs, but it appears it is offering no solutions for the Chadian people beyond keeping Deby in power to do their dirty work in the region.”

According to the UFR official, two fighters were killed and two trucks destroyed.

Power Play in Chad

Chadian President Idriss Deby
Chadian President Idriss Deby

Chad, a vast and mostly desert country with more than 200 ethnic groups has seen little peace since its independence in 1960. While Idriss Deby, a former head of the Chadian Armed Forces, became president of Chad in 1990 after overthrowing his former boss, Hissene Habre in a popular revolution.

Since then, his regime has faced several issues including rebellions since seizing power. In 2018, he enforced a constitutional reforms that could keep him on office until 2033.

France considers its former colony vital in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa and based its 4,500-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force in N’djamena where the United States also has a base.

Chad which is presently one of the world’s poorest country has had its fair share of Islamist militants linked to both al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel and Lake Chad region. This has put considerable pressure on the country’s military and economy.

France backing a dictator

“Deby remains the most viable and solid partner in the region. The Chadians are counting on France for the Libyan border,”

French military spokesman Patrik Steiger

Chad’s military command said the operation neutralised the column of “mercenaries and terrorists” in Chadian territory after earlier operations by the Libyan National Army.

Chadian President Idriss Deby has since accused Sudan of supporting the attack, a charge that Khartoum denied.

The LNA, the military wing of one of Libya’s two rival governments operating in the east of the country under General Khalifa Haftar, has began fighting against Chadian rebels at the start of the year.

G-5 Sahel and Boko Haram

Chad has become a leading member in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel. It is part of the West African coalition fighting Boko Haram and a member of the French-backed G5 Sahel anti-terror alliance, which also includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

French Forces in Chad

This is not the first time France is conducting aerial operations in support of Chad. In mid-February 1986, French forces launched Operation Épervier — France’s intervention in the Libya-Chad war. The French air force deployed to Chad’s capital N’Djamena around a dozen Jaguar A fighter-bombers and up to six Mirage F.1C interceptors from various units along with a few Mirage F.1CR tactical reconnaissance fighters.

The warplanes spent months chasing away Libyan planes and, more than once, came close to shooting them down.

Ekene Lionel

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