N'DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — Four officials have been arrested in connection with a foiled attempt to overthrow the government in the Central African nation of Chad, the country's state prosecutor announced on Thursday.
The government has given few details of the alleged plot, saying only that the men are accused of planning the coup for four months. The prosecutor claimed they were found with incriminating documents outlining their plans.
President Idriss Deby, who has been in power since 1990, has faced numerous armed rebellions and countless attempted coups during his 23-year rule, including some believed to have been led by members of his sprawling, extended family.
Prosecutor Mahamat Saleh Younous told reporters that Gen. Weiding Assi Assoue, who served as a provincial governor for several terms; Gen. David Gomine, the head of the military tribunal, and two lawmakers — Mahamat Kadre and former Health Minister Saleh Makki — have been in custody since Wednesday.
"Because they were trying to destabilize the constitutional order and the security of the state, they were immediately handed over to us," Younous added. "The investigation is underway."
Deby is one of Africa's last remaining "Big Men." Visitors arriving at Chad's international airport are greeted by a gigantic portrait of the 60-something general sitting in a throne-like chair, his eyes hidden behind a pair of his signature shades.
Unlike many other countries in the region, Deby has succeeded in turning his army into one of the most effective fighting forces in sub-Saharan Africa. It was Chadian troops that have taken on the brunt of the military intervention to oust al-Qaida in neighboring Mali, including leading the fierce battle that led to the alleged killing of feared al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb commander Abou Zeid.
The latest attempted coup was first announced on Wednesday in a statement on state television. Government spokesman Hassan Sylla Ben Bakari said "a small group of individuals with bad intentions tried to carry out an act which would have destabilized the institutions of the Republic."
He added that the Ministry of Defense was first alerted to their plan in December of 2012 and had been working since then to unravel the alleged plot.