N'DJAMENA, May 2 (Reuters) - Security forces in Chad foiled a coup against the government of President Idriss Deby that had been in preparation for several months, the West African desert nation's communications minister announced late on Wednesday.
"Today, May 1, a group of individuals with bad intentions sought to carry out an action to destabilise the institutions of the republic," Hassan Sylla Bakary read in a statement broadcast on state-owned television.
"They did not count on the valiant security forces who have tracked them since December 2012 and who, this morning, neutralised them," he said.
The impoverished former French colony has a long history of coups and rebellions, and Deby himself led rebel troops into the capital N'Djamena in 1990 to seize power.
He has since won four elections and cast himself as a key ally of the West against al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters across the vast, arid Sahel region.
Bakary said the suspected plotters had been handed over to the state prosecutor. However he did not reveal their identities or give further details of the plot.
Chad's security services carried out a number of arrests within the ranks of the army on Wednesday, military sources told Reuters. And at least one member of parliament, an opposition figure named Saleh Maki, was also detained, according to his family.
Deby deployed around 2,000 troops to Mali earlier this year to help drive out Islamist fighters who had seized the northern two-thirds of the country, earning him the gratitude of France which spearheaded the operation there.
However, the president has plenty of enemies both at home and abroad.
The UFR, a Chadian rebel coalition that laid down its weapons in 2010, warned in March that they would relaunch their rebellion after Deby failed to enter talks with them.
Last week, Deby accused neighbouring Libya of allowing Chadian mercenaries to set up a training camp from where they could seek to destabilise his country, a charge Libyan authorities rejected. (Reporting by Madjiasra Nako; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Walsh)