Klessoum Prison, Chad

Chad's transitional authorities on Tuesday released the first of some 250 members of armed groups it has promised to free from prison under an amnesty aimed at fostering dialogue after the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby last April.

Justice Minister Ahmat Mahamat Alhabo led a short ceremony at Klessoum prison near the capital N'Djamena, granting the immediate release of 22 detainees convicted of taking up arms against the central government in the past 10 years.

Chad Klessoum prison prisoner release

Twenty-two prisoners attend their release ceremony marking the beginning of the release of around two hundred and fifty members of rebel groups and other prisoners of war, at Klessoum prison in N'Djamena, Chad, on 18th January. PICTURE: Reuters/Mahamat Ramadane

Rebel groups have been invited to join national peace-building talks scheduled for mid February, but the main group - the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) - said it would only take part if the interim government made gestures of peace.

"This pardon agreement is to be welcomed because it is a pledge to restore trust between the sons and daughters of Chad and to bring about much-needed social peace," the minister told reporters after handing each prisoner an amnesty certificate. 

Chad's Transitional Military Council is led by Mahamat Idriss Deby, who seized power after his father was killed while visiting troops fighting an insurgency in the north.

He has said the national talks are a necessary precursor to presidential and legislative elections.