Chad pardons 380 rebels in apparent peace gesture

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By Mahamat Ramadane

N'DJAMENA, Chad (Reuters) - Chad's interim president Mahamat Idriss Deby on Saturday pardoned 380 jailed members of an influential rebel group in an apparent bid to get it to join peace talks.

Deby was installed by the military in 2021 after his father - longtime ruler Idriss Deby - was killed on the battlefield as his troops fought rebels from The Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).

He has since held peace talks with various rebel groups who had long challenged his father's regime, but FACT has not taken part, insisting the transitional authorities first make gestures of peace, including freeing its members.

In a decree, Deby listed the FACT members he had pardoned, but did not provide a reason for the move. The document was dated Friday but released on Saturday.

A spokesperson for FACT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Those pardoned were among the more than 400 FACT members sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, after they were found guilty of acts of terrorism, undermining national security and endangering the life of the head of state among other charges.

FACT leader Mahamat Mahadi was among those sentenced, but he has not received a pardon.

Deby's father had been president of the vast central African country since 1990, surviving numerous coup attempts and rebellions as one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

The current military junta is set to stay in power until elections scheduled to take place around October 2024.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Andrew Heavens)