Chad clashes kill five at protests
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Five people were killed Thursday when police clashed with demonstrators in the Chadian capital during a banned protest against the ruling military, an AFP journalist saw.
Hundreds of demonstrators turned out to mark the date when the military had initially promised to hand over power -- a spell that has been extended for another two years.
An AFP reporter saw five bodies on the floor of the city's Union Chagoua Hospital, two of which were covered with the Chadian national flag and three with bloodied white sheets.
The head doctor, Joseph Ampil, later confirmed to AFP that five individuals had "died from gunshots" during the clashes.
Palls of black smoke could be seen in some parts of the city and the crack of teargas grenades could be heard.
Barricades were set up in several districts and tyres were set alight in the main avenues to block traffic.
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In an opposition stronghold, streets were deserted and littered with tree branches and piles of bricks. Schools and university establishments were closed.
The headquarters of Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo's UNDR party was also attacked by demonstrators "and partially burned down," UNDR Vice President Celestin Topona told AFP.
France, Chad's former colonial power, condemned the violence, which "notably (featured) the use of lethal weapons against demonstrators."
"France is not playing any part in these events, which are lie strictly in Chad's domestic political domain," the foreign ministry said.
"False information about France's purported involvement is baseless."
There was no immediate official word on casualties.
October 20 pledge
The violence comes on the heels of a national forum organised by strongman Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno that extended his junta's stay in power.
The 38-year-old five-star general took over in April 2021 after his iron-fisted father, Idriss Deby Itno, in power for three decades, was killed during an operation against rebels.
The younger Deby has since angered many at home and embarrassed backers abroad by staying in power beyond his initially promised deadline, which would have expired on Thursday.
"They're firing on us. They are killing our people," Succes Masra, whose Transformers party was among groups that had called the protest, said on Twitter.
"The Soldiers of the one-and-only General who refused to honour his word and on the day when the 18 months are up -- this is how he intends to install the (Deby) dynasty."
Deby's junta had originally declared it would restore civilian rule after 18 months in power and he initially promised not to take part in elections that would follow.
But as the 18-month deadline neared, a nationwide forum staged by Deby reset the clock.
On October 1, it approved a new "maximum" 24-month timeframe for holding elections.
It also named Deby "transitional president" and declared he could be a candidate in the poll.
Deby was sworn in October 10, and later appointed a so-called government of national union headed by Kebzabo.
The vast, arid Sahel state has had a long history of coups and political turmoil since it gained independence from France in 1960.
During his long stay in power, the elder Deby fought off several attempts to unseat him by rebels crossing from Libya and Sudan.
He was supported by France, which deemed him a strong ally in its campaign against jihadism in the Sahel.
France swiftly endorsed his son as his successor.
But its apparent displeasure at his push to cement power was visible at the October 10 inauguration ceremonies, where France, like the EU, was represented only by an ambassador.
The statement from Paris that denied any French involvement in Thursday's violence comes after anti-French protests during a coup in Burkina Faso earlier this month.
Protestors attacked the French embassy and cultural centre in the capital Ouagadougou after coup leaders accused France of harbouring junta chief Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba at a base in Burkina, an allegation France denied.
Damiba fled to neighbouring Togo.