Chadian rebel leader Idriss Deby reached Chad’s capital of N’Djamena on Sunday, capping a rebel offensive amid conflicting reports that President Hissen Habre had been killed while trying to flee the Central African country.
Deby rode into N’Djamena in a black Mercedes-Benz escorted by a long convoy of jeeps and trucks, climaxing an offensive lasting barely three weeks.
Deby, Habre’s former security adviser, reportedly met with former government ministers Sunday afternoon and said he was not interested in being president, instead promising to create a multiparty system.
Meanwhile, almost 1,000 French citizens living in Chad, a former French colony, were evacuated and arrived in Paris on Sunday on two jumbo jets. The French government urged all its nationals to leave the country as soon as possible.
News reports from Libya, which has been accused of backing the rebels, said Habre died while trying to flee the capital.
” . . . Sources confirm that Habre, together with a group of his aides, died during their escape in the region between Tine and Oum Chalouba in eastern Chad,” the Libyan news agency Jana said in a dispatch monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp. Jana called reports of Habre’s escape “a lie.”
But military sources in Cameroon said Habre had made it to the northern Cameroon town of Maroua, and Chadian sources in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde also said Habre was alive.
In Paris, Foreign Minister Roland Dumas on Sunday defended France’s decision not to take military action to defend the Habre government, saying that “the days are gone when France had a choice of governments in these countries.”