France tells Chad to open probe after deaths at opposition figure's home

FILE PHOTO: Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore , Chad President Idriss Deby and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive for a picture during the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania June 30, 2020. Ludovic Marin /Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - France's foreign minister urged Chad to open an independent investigation after at least two people were killed when security forces went to arrest opposition candidate Yaya Dillo on Sunday.

Dillo, who plans to run against President Idriss Deby in a presidential election in April said he was attacked at home by members of the presidential guard and that five family members were killed, including his mother.

France, the former colonial power, has close ties with Deby. It considers Chad as pivotal in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa and its 5,100-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force has a base in the capital N'djamena, as does the United States.

"Dillo had two arrest warrants issued against him and offered resistance, but that is not an excuse for the deaths of several people," Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing late on Tuesday.

"We call on Chad to quickly carry out an independent and impartial investigation so light can be shed on this tragic event."

Dillo is a formal rebel leader who fought against Deby in 2006 before joining his government and becoming a minister.

He is one of 16 people who have announced they will run against Deby in April.

Deby, in power since 1990, pushed through a new constitution in 2018 that reinstated term limits but could let him stay in power until 2033.

Underscoring Deby's importance for Paris, French warplanes struck a rebel convoy in northern Chad in February 2019, helping local troops repel an incursion across the border from Libya.

"There will be elections on April 11 and we have told Chadian authorities several times to guarantee opposition participation, freedom to gather and media access. It's essential for Chad's stability," Le Drian said.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Bate Felix and Giles Elgood)

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