Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s newly re-elected president, died of injuries sustained while battling rebels in the Sahel country’s north.

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The stunning news came just one day after the 68-year-old was declared the winner of a presidential election in which he was re-elected for a sixth term.

According to the army, the president had been commanding his army at the weekend as it battled against rebels who had launched a major incursion into the north of the country on election day.

“Deby has just breathed his last breath defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield,” army spokesman, General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement read out on state television.

Deby, 68, had ruled Chad for three decades but was a key ally in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the troubled Sahel region.

The army said a military council led by the late president’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, a four-star general, would replace him.

On Monday, the army had claimed a “great victory” in its battle against the rebels from neighbouring Libya, saying it had killed 300 fighters, with the loss of five soldiers in its own ranks during eight days of combat.

Deby would have been one of the longest-serving leaders in the world, after provisional results showed him winning the April 11 election.