06/01/2017 12:49 GMT | Updated 06/01/2017 14:53 GMT

Chad Shuts Border With Libya, Deploys Troops Amid Security Concerns

Chad's Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke has declared the border region a "zone of military operation".

Thomas Samson / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Chad's Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke says groups of militants have converged along its northern border with Libya.

Chad, a key ally of the West in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa, said on Thursday it has closed its long border with Libya and will deploy troops to the area in an effort to prevent the influx of militant fighters fleeing conflict in its war-torn northern neighbour.

Libya has slid into lawlessness since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. Although Islamic State has been ousted from its former stronghold of Sirte, the country's U.N.-backed government has largely failed to retain control.

Chad, worried that fighters will flee south across the border, said on Thursday it would take immediate action.

"Some isolated ... groups have converged toward the south of Libya, that is to say on the northern border of our country, which is potentially exposed to a serious threat of ... infiltration," Chad's Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke said in a statement, declaring the border region a "zone of military operation".

Despite a struggling economy, Chad's army has become one of the region's strongest, and it now plays a key role in efforts to combat Boko Haram - an Islamic State affiliate group - in neighbouring Nigeria. It also confronted attacks by the Islamist militant group on its own soil.

But the vast desert borders of West and North Africa are notoriously difficult to police, and militants can often roam between countries free and undetected.