Armed Conflict

12
Apr
18:19 UTC

Chad Alert: FACT rebel group claims to have taken over several towns in Tibesti Region on April 11

Please be advised

  • According to a statement released by the Front for Alternation and Concord in Chad (FACT), its forces stationed in Tanoua, Tibesti Region carried out military operations and were able to take control of Wour and Zouarke on April 11. 
  • FACT claims that its troops encountered barely any resistance from security forces.
  • In the communique, the FACT issued an appeal to the opposition and to the civil society to maintain pressure on the government and called on the remaining armed forces in Tibesti to lay down their weapons.
  • Sources indicate that violent clashes took place between the military and the rebels in Zouar, Tibesti Region and that communication has been cut off in the town and its surrounding. 
  • Sources indicate that the military conducted airstrikes in Zouar, damaging several commercial and civilian trucks. They further claim that a military airplane was hit by anti-aircraft weapons in Zouar fired by FACT.
  • The French Barkhane forces in the Sahel have reportedly mobilized air support at the request of the Chadian government, as per sources from April 12. 
  • Further reports indicate that the General Staff of the Armed Forces announced that a group of ‘terrorists’ were identified in Zouarke, Tibesti Province on April 11.

Assessments & Forecast

  1. This marks the first major incursion in the Tibesti Region since the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR) rebel group entered the Kouri Bougoudi area in February 2020, aligning with the precedent of sporadic incursions into the country by Libya-based Chadian rebel groups. FACT is a Chadian rebel group, which the CCMSR split from in 2016, that is primarily stationed in Libya though it maintains a base in Tanoua, Tibesti Region. This offensive is notably the first time the rebel group has launched such an operation and claimed to have control over territory in Chad. 
  2. It comes against the backdrop of FACT being increasingly active in their social media channels over the past few months in condemning the government’s perceived suppression of the opposition ahead of the election and denouncing President Idriss Deby’s “electoral masquerade” while appealing to the Chadian population to rise up against it. Thus, the timing of the incursion on the same day as the presidential elections was intentional and likely intended to take advantage of the dissatisfaction with Deby’s sixth term and challenge the legitimacy of the election while also garnering heightened media attention. 
  3. While the FACT communique stated that the offensive was launched from Tanoua, with the group being primarily active in Libya, it is likely that the fighters were drawn from rebels based both in Tibesti Region and Libya. This highlights the porosity of the border between Chad and Libya, with FACT rebels likely being able to cross over undetected to reinforce rebels in Tanoua ahead of the offensive. Though unverified, the FACT statements that they were able to subdue the military garrisons in Zouarke and Wourin is notable and potentially indicative of a sizable force of rebels that convinced the Chadian soldiers in the garrisons of the untenability of resisting. The leader of the FACT, Mahamat Mahdi Ali, stated in 2016 that the group consisted of 700 fighters. While it is plausible that Ali was exaggerating at that time, the possibility that the group has since grown cannot be discounted. Further, it remains unclear if the entirety of the FACT forces were involved in the recent offensive or if additional fighters remain in Libya or Tanoua. 
  4. Reports of the FACT possessing anti-aircraft weaponry and hitting a military aircraft are highly notable and, if true, would mark a significant elevation of Chadian rebel groups’ resources and capabilities. However, FACT did not mention shooting down or hitting a fighter jet in their communique when they were incentivized to do so to bolster their profile and undermine the Chadian security forces, which casts some doubt over the veracity of these reports. Although it remains unclear how the rebels may have targeted the aircraft, they would likely have been able to procure a variety of weapons in Libya.
  5. FORECAST: The group can be expected to attempt to consolidate their control over the captured territory and advance further inwards over the coming days. They may attempt to recruit support from the ethnic Toubou community, to which most of the Chadian rebel fighters belong. While the potential size of the rebel troops and the possible anti-aircraft capabilities could suggest a more prolonged conflict compared to when the CCMSR entered Chad in February 2020, the FACT is unlikely to pose a sustained threat to Chadian stability or integrity. This is because the government is liable to commit a significant number of troops and resources to counter this threat, especially since it comes so close to Deby’s likely re-election, and thus it is probable that he will want to demonstrate his continued ability to lead the country. Consequently, the military can be expected to deploy a large contingent of troops to the Tibesti Region over the coming days and launch an operation. The French are likely to provide air assistance to the Chadian military in these operations. 

Recommendations

  1. Travel to N’Djamena and Moundou may continue while adhering to stringent security measures regarding crime and civil unrest.
  2. Avoid nonessential travel to Chad’s outlying areas given the risks of criminality and the poor infrastructure of the region.
  3. Avoid all travel to the northwestern border with Libya given ongoing conflicts between the military and a number of rebel groups.
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Medium
AFFECTED AREA Tibesti Region, Chad
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL High
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Credible

Please be advised

  • According to a statement released by the Front for Alternation and Concord in Chad (FACT), its forces stationed in Tanoua, Tibesti Region carried out military operations and were able to take control of Wour and Zouarke on April 11. 
  • FACT claims that its troops encountered barely any resistance from security forces.
  • In the communique, the FACT issued an appeal to the opposition and to the civil society to maintain pressure on the government and called on the remaining armed forces in Tibesti to lay down their weapons.
  • Sources indicate that violent clashes took place between the military and the rebels in Zouar, Tibesti Region and that communication has been cut off in the town and its surrounding. 
  • Sources indicate that the military conducted airstrikes in Zouar, damaging several commercial and civilian trucks. They further claim that a military airplane was hit by anti-aircraft weapons in Zouar fired by FACT.
  • The French Barkhane forces in the Sahel have reportedly mobilized air support at the request of the Chadian government, as per sources from April 12. 
  • Further reports indicate that the General Staff of the Armed Forces announced that a group of ‘terrorists’ were identified in Zouarke, Tibesti Province on April 11.

Assessments & Forecast

  1. This marks the first major incursion in the Tibesti Region since the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR) rebel group entered the Kouri Bougoudi area in February 2020, aligning with the precedent of sporadic incursions into the country by Libya-based Chadian rebel groups. FACT is a Chadian rebel group, which the CCMSR split from in 2016, that is primarily stationed in Libya though it maintains a base in Tanoua, Tibesti Region. This offensive is notably the first time the rebel group has launched such an operation and claimed to have control over territory in Chad. 
  2. It comes against the backdrop of FACT being increasingly active in their social media channels over the past few months in condemning the government’s perceived suppression of the opposition ahead of the election and denouncing President Idriss Deby’s “electoral masquerade” while appealing to the Chadian population to rise up against it. Thus, the timing of the incursion on the same day as the presidential elections was intentional and likely intended to take advantage of the dissatisfaction with Deby’s sixth term and challenge the legitimacy of the election while also garnering heightened media attention. 
  3. While the FACT communique stated that the offensive was launched from Tanoua, with the group being primarily active in Libya, it is likely that the fighters were drawn from rebels based both in Tibesti Region and Libya. This highlights the porosity of the border between Chad and Libya, with FACT rebels likely being able to cross over undetected to reinforce rebels in Tanoua ahead of the offensive. Though unverified, the FACT statements that they were able to subdue the military garrisons in Zouarke and Wourin is notable and potentially indicative of a sizable force of rebels that convinced the Chadian soldiers in the garrisons of the untenability of resisting. The leader of the FACT, Mahamat Mahdi Ali, stated in 2016 that the group consisted of 700 fighters. While it is plausible that Ali was exaggerating at that time, the possibility that the group has since grown cannot be discounted. Further, it remains unclear if the entirety of the FACT forces were involved in the recent offensive or if additional fighters remain in Libya or Tanoua. 
  4. Reports of the FACT possessing anti-aircraft weaponry and hitting a military aircraft are highly notable and, if true, would mark a significant elevation of Chadian rebel groups’ resources and capabilities. However, FACT did not mention shooting down or hitting a fighter jet in their communique when they were incentivized to do so to bolster their profile and undermine the Chadian security forces, which casts some doubt over the veracity of these reports. Although it remains unclear how the rebels may have targeted the aircraft, they would likely have been able to procure a variety of weapons in Libya.
  5. FORECAST: The group can be expected to attempt to consolidate their control over the captured territory and advance further inwards over the coming days. They may attempt to recruit support from the ethnic Toubou community, to which most of the Chadian rebel fighters belong. While the potential size of the rebel troops and the possible anti-aircraft capabilities could suggest a more prolonged conflict compared to when the CCMSR entered Chad in February 2020, the FACT is unlikely to pose a sustained threat to Chadian stability or integrity. This is because the government is liable to commit a significant number of troops and resources to counter this threat, especially since it comes so close to Deby’s likely re-election, and thus it is probable that he will want to demonstrate his continued ability to lead the country. Consequently, the military can be expected to deploy a large contingent of troops to the Tibesti Region over the coming days and launch an operation. The French are likely to provide air assistance to the Chadian military in these operations. 

Recommendations

  1. Travel to N’Djamena and Moundou may continue while adhering to stringent security measures regarding crime and civil unrest.
  2. Avoid nonessential travel to Chad’s outlying areas given the risks of criminality and the poor infrastructure of the region.
  3. Avoid all travel to the northwestern border with Libya given ongoing conflicts between the military and a number of rebel groups.
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Medium
AFFECTED AREA Tibesti Region, Chad
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL High
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Credible