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Medical Supplies Reaching India, COVID-19 Deaths Near 200,000; Brazilian Health Regulator Blocks Russian Vaccine; U.S.-Saudi Ties; Iranian President Orders Probe into Leaked Audio; U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Faces Scrutiny for Conduct, Troubling New Surge of COVID-19 Hits Nepal; Pakistan Working to Slow Rise in New Infections; Turmoil in Chad. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired April 28, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, India passes a horrific milestone as its health care system gets crushed by a COVID avalanche. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and makeshift crematoriums are popping up. Despite that, some are gathering in large groups as the virus spreads uncontrollably.

British prime minister Boris Johnson under fire for an alleged comment about coronavirus victims.

And the killing of a long time leader in Africa's Sahel has France concerned. What it stands to lose in Chad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CHURCH: We begin with new developments out of India. The country has officially topped 200,000 COVID deaths as its pandemic disaster spirals out of control and it could actually be much worse than that.

A new model predicts the toll is far higher than what's been reported and India could hit nearly 1 million deaths by August.

The situation is dire, with bodies being burned in makeshift crematoriums in parks and parking lots. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and beds. Health care workers are under tremendous strain at this time. And people are pleading for medical help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My father is in a very critical condition and I am getting no help. (INAUDIBLE) there but nobody is responding. (INAUDIBLE). Please help me, please. My father is dying (INAUDIBLE). Yesterday, I lost my younger brother.


CHURCH: CNN's Anna Coren is following this story from Hong Kong. She joins us now live.

It's just devastating as this virus sweeps across India. Research at the University of Washington reveals cases and deaths are going unreported and could be nearly double what authorities are telling us.

What can you add to that and these medical supplies that are now reaching India?

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Medical aid is finally arriving, Rosemary. More countries are certainly taking part in this effort, desperately needed effort, to get medical supplies, generators, concentrators, ventilators, testing, PPE, you name it. They need everything.

But it's a drop in the ocean. As we just heard from that woman, this is what's happening all the time outside hospitals. People desperately bringing their loved ones are being turned away. There are no beds, no oxygen. Hospitals are sending out SOSs for oxygen.

And where is the help?

These makeshift hospitals are being set up in parking lots. We know the WHO is bringing prefabricated field hospitals as well. The WHO has described this as a perfect storm, the situations that have led to the second wave being as aggressive as what it is.

That was the easing of social restrictions, the mass gatherings that were allowed, the very low vaccination rate in the country. The latest figure is 1.9 percent of the population has been fully inoculated. We're talking a population of more than 1.3 billion people.

Then you throw in the variants, the highly contagious variants, plus the double mutation, and you have this perfect storm. Interestingly, you are now showing pictures. This happened two days ago. It's a political rally of Modi's party in Telangana state in the south of the country.

Many people masked but no social distancing and many people are not masked. This is playing out as a second wave wreaks havoc across the country. People are just shaking their heads.

How can this be allowed to happen?

And we are hearing now that cases in neighboring Nepal and Pakistan are rising. Pakistan has just announced the highest number of COVID cases in the country. Nepal is blaming some of the cases, putting it down to this variant, this Indian variant. China would be extremely concerned, Bangladesh.

[02:05:00] COREN: Everywhere in the region, the alarm bells are going off, considering what is taking place right now in India. I should also mention that the prime minister's aunt has died from COVID. That has been confirmed from the family but not from the prime minister's office.

CHURCH: Wow, it's just a tragedy unfolding right before our eyes. Anna Coren, joining us live from Hong Kong, many thanks.

Partha Mukhopadhyay joins me now from Kolkata, India. He is the senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research.

Thank you, sir, for talking with us.



CHURCH: Absolutely. So India's COVID-19 death toll has just hit 200,000 but the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts the true death toll is nearly double what is being reported. They projected nearly 1 million Indians could die before August.

What is your response to this dire prediction?

MUKHOPADHYAY: As far as (INAUDIBLE), I think quite possibly (INAUDIBLE) there is underreporting. But that is not what is determining (INAUDIBLE) at this point in time.

What's concerning me is trying to get the number of infections down because that's the only way we will get the pandemic under control. And we (INAUDIBLE). We did not enforce enough (INAUDIBLE). We still haven't done testing. We did not ramp up (INAUDIBLE).

And that, along with the domestic billion (ph) that we have now sequenced, has led to (INAUDIBLE) of the (INAUDIBLE). And yet, even now, I don't think the situation is (INAUDIBLE) because the pandemic has now -- is still concentrated in a few places.

So we (INAUDIBLE) see are stark playing out (ph) all over our television. But at the same time, we are limited in some areas and then this is where we don't have the kind of (INAUDIBLE). What is you see is a kind of gathering (INAUDIBLE).


MUKHOPADHYAY: We need more communication to stop that.

CHURCH: Right, and I do want to pull up these graphics that show world cases and deaths in the U.S., India, Brazil, France and Russia. The U.S. is still suffering the highest death toll in the world. India not very far behind.

But in the U.S., COVID vaccines are helping turn the situation around and President Biden plans to send 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to countries in need, including India.

He will also send funds to help expand vaccine manufacturing in India, the biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world, it has to be said.

How quickly can the country ramp up production and get more people vaccinated?

Because that is what is going to help this situation.

MUKHOPADHYAY: Absolutely, Rosemary. The -- currently, we have about 100 million people (INAUDIBLE) but -- and what we need to be (INAUDIBLE), one of the bigger mistakes I think people are making is opening up vaccination for people below 18 -- I'm sorry -- between 18 and 45, starting base first (ph).

This is before we have fully protected our vulnerable population of people who are above 45, especially in areas where the pandemic is (INAUDIBLE). We need a more jurifically (ph) focused and targeted approach for vaccination (INAUDIBLE). We had about the capacity currently to (INAUDIBLE) 5 million doses (INAUDIBLE).

We have gone up to vaccinating more than 4 million people a day during the course of our vaccination. Now we are having somewhere in 2.5 million. So (INAUDIBLE).

CHURCH: All right, unfortunately, we are having some audio issues there but I do want to thank Partha Mukhopadhyay, joining us live from Kolkata, India. Many thanks again.

To learn about how you can help combat India's COVID-19 crisis, you can visit our website at


CHURCH: South America is still struggling to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many countries remain in the red as new infections continue to climb.

In Argentina, a presidential adviser says the government has resumed talks with Pfizer to purchase its vaccine.

Meantime, Brazil's senate is investigating the government's handling of the pandemic. President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of sabotaging isolation measures, threatening local officials who implemented restrictions and discouraging the use of masks.

The probe could lead to an impeachment vote ahead of next year's election. The Brazil investigation will look into the country's vaccine rollout, which has been plagued by missteps and delays. Now as Matt Rivers reports, Brazilian health officials are rejecting the Russian vaccine.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like so many other countries around the world, Brazil is in dire need of more vaccines. So far, it has managed to vaccinate just a small portion of its population.

There were many in Brazil who were hoping that problem might have been alleviated somewhat with the introduction of the Russian developed vaccine. In Brazil, some 66 million doses or so have already been agreed to in different contracts.

But it was Monday night that Brazilian health regulators actually denied emergency use authorization for the Russian developed vaccine, saying that it has grave concerns over the safety of this vaccine, the efficacy of this vaccine.

It says Russia did not provide enough data about quality control, about efficacy and also that there were flaws throughout the clinical testing phase during the development of this vaccine.

So because of those reasons and more, health regulators in Brazil denying entry to Brazil, denying use of this Russian developed vaccine.

Meanwhile, the agency in Russia that's funding the development of that vaccine, that agency responded, with the CEO basically saying that the decision in Brazil was a political one, saying that he believes that Brazil made this decision due to direct political pressure from the United States -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: The Saudi crown prince calls the U.S. a strategic partner and says there are few differences with the Biden administration.

But what is the U.S. saying about the relationship?

We will have that in just a moment.

And the British prime minister is accused of some bad behavior involving possible corruption and some very disrespectful comments about COVID victims.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

The Biden administration is taking a tougher stand on Saudi Arabia when it comes to human rights and the war in Yemen.


CHURCH: It released a report earlier this year implicating the crown prince in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Still the U.S. secretary of state says the relationship with Saudi Arabia is an important one.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Like it or not, we are going to need to continue to work with Saudi Arabia, which remains a partner in many respects.

One of the things we are trying to do is bring the war in Yemen to an end. The crown prince is likely to be the leader of that country for a long time in the future. We have to work with leaders around the world who are engaged in conduct that we either object to or, in some cases, find reprehensible.


CHURCH: Secretary Blinken's comments come as the Saudi crown prince made his own remarks during a televised interview. Joining us with more is John Defterios.

Good to see you, John. We heard from U.S. Secretary of State Blinken there.

How does the crown prince view relations with Washington now in the post-Trump era?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: The nuance there by Tony Blinken is very interesting. It was the same thing here with the crown prince, speaking to Saudi television. He was using the 5 year anniversary of his Vision 2030, an economic blueprint to also redefine relations with Washington and even here in the Middle East.

Mohammed bin Salman was suggesting they had 90 percent agreement with Washington right now and he is very willing to work on the final 10 percent. He had full backing from the Trump administration.

That CIA report two months implicating the crown prince strained relations again but they want to get over that hump.

A fundamental change of tone when it comes to Iran, he says he doesn't want this to be a difficult relationship with Tehran but one that can be prosperous. But he was saying the nuclear ambitions, the ballistic missile program that Iran has been pursuing, cannot go unchecked.

And also the use of proxy Houthi rebels to put on attacks to Saudi Arabia from east to west has been an incredible pressure on Saudi Arabia. But you can hear the big shift that he wants to collaborate in the future and even settle the dispute with Qatar to illustrate to the Biden administration he can be a bridge builder, very different than his tone under the Trump administration for sure.

CHURCH: Saudi Aramco is the world's largest oil company.

What is the Saudi crown prince suggesting as the next phase of the share sale?

DEFTERIOS: I don't know if you will recall but, at the end of 2019, they went with a smaller sale only in Riyadh. They had ambitions to take it to New York and London but decided not to do so to get a higher a valuation at home.

Now they are suggesting they could sell up to 1 percent of the company. He left out details but said it would be a major global energy company and a major country as well. So for those that follow the financial markets, say that could be a fairly big deal.

But the timeline is 1 to 2 years. So he is showing his hand early to mark the 2030 Vision opportunity and anniversary. Let's take a listen.


MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI CROWN PRINCE (through translator): I can't say the name of this country but it's a huge country. If they got 1 percent, that would strengthen Aramco's industry and Saudi Arabia and the request for Aramco's products in the country, where the company bought the share.


DEFTERIOS: So those who cover the energy market are thinking of big customers like China and Japan. They seem to be two leading candidates and South Korea, which is also a major importer of oil. The

But United States is a global energy company. The Saudi Aramco has the largest refinery in the United States. But the Biden administration is moving away from oil and gas. It certainly has the market talking. We will put it that way.

CHURCH: John Defterios joining us live from Abu Dhabi, many thanks.

U.S. climate czar John Kerry is vehemently denying that he told Iran's foreign minister about Israeli airstrikes on Iranian interests inside Syria. The claim comes in allegations Javad Zarif made on leaked audio and Kerry is taking a lot of heat from conservatives over this. U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken spoke to CNN earlier and defended Kerry.


BLINKEN: These things were so secret that they were all reported in the press at the time. So it is utter nonsense. And it's really unfortunate that people continue to try to play politics with this.



CHURCH: Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, has ordered a probe into how the audio was leaked. In it, Mr. Zarif also criticized the country's assassinated commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qasem Soleimani.

Earlier, I spoke with Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert and a senior associate at Carnegie Endowment. I asked him what the impact of this leaked audio will be.


KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: I don't think that John Kerry will really be impacted by these allegations from Zarif or these revelations. And at the end of the day, I don't think this leak really changes the dynamic of the U.S.-Iran with the negotiations, either.

The United States continues to be committed to the deal for -- to reviving the nuclear deal for security reasons. And Iran continues to need the revival of the nuclear deal for economic reasons.

CHURCH: There were attacked boats that harassed U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf on Monday. All this going on all while efforts are underway to negotiate a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia agreeing Tuesday to try to fast-track efforts to bring the U.S. and Iran back into compliance with that deal.

Where do you think this is all going?

SADJADPOUR: Again, I do think that there is going to continue to be a lot of haggling in the coming weeks and months. The Iranian government knows that the Biden administration is committed to trying to revive this deal. So they will try to get as much sanctions relief as possible.

You do also have other elements within the Iranian regime and the revolution. So they are going to continue to harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf. They are going to continue to oppose U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East, whether that's attacks against Israel or U.S. partners in the Persian Gulf.

But at the end of the day, all of the P5+1, United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, all these countries are committed to reviving the deal. And Iran really can't reverse this economic decline if it doesn't get sanctions relief. So it's my prediction that we will see either a full or partial return to the nuclear deal sometime in 2021.


CHURCH: And we will hear more from Karim Sadjadpour next hour here on CNN NEWSROOM.

The British prime minister is facing scrutiny on several fronts over his conduct. Among the allegations, that he showed a callous disregard for COVID victims and that he lied about who paid for renovations to his residence. Isa Soares picks up the story.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a horrific year of deaths and lockdown, Boris Johnson had hoped for a triumph this spring, easing restrictions, opening up the economy and taking credit for Britain's successful vaccine program.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I literally did not feel a thing. SOARES (voice-over): But as the prime minister hits the campaign

trail this week, he faces damaging allegations about his conduct that might cast a shadow on the months ahead.

He's reported to have said he would rather let the bodies pile high than enforce a third lockdown, remarks said to have been made during a heated discussion in Downing Street in October. A British tabloid and two broadcasters cite unnamed sources for the claims.

But Johnson denies he used these words but again and again he's asked, did he?

JOHNSON: No. But, again, I think the important thing I think that people want us to get on and do as a government, is to make sure the lockdowns work.

MICHAEL GOVE, BRITISH MINISTER FOR THE CABINET OFFICE: The idea that he would say any such thing, I find incredible. I was in that room. I never heard language of that kind.

SOARES (voice-over): The prime minister approved a lockdown in October and, again, as the U.K. faced its deadliest wave this year.

JOHNSON: The government is once again instructing you to stay at home.

SOARES (voice-over): But the claim could fault the leader of the nation with one of the worst COVID-19 death tolls in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bit of a horrifying thing to say, isn't it?

Let the bodies pile up, pile high in their thousands. But it was some time ago and it was very much in the context of the difficult decision that the government faced at the end of October when they really didn't want a lockdown but felt that they had to.

JOHNSON: I consider this --

SOARES (voice-over): It's not the only story that threatens the prime minister's trademark optimism.


SOARES (voice-over): A stack of claims, all denied, are piling up at Downing Street's door. There are demands for an independent inquiry into who paid for expensive upgrades to his Downing Street flat. Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, have spent tens of thousands

of pounds redecorating their home, according to British news outlets.

A former top aide turned critic alleged Johnson planned to have Conservative Party donors foot the bill although his trade minister said Johnson has paid for it.

Dominic Cummings was once Johnson's right-hand man but left Number 10 in November amid a power struggle. He is now at war with former colleagues who worry what secrets he's prepared to spill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There could be other stories that are embarrassing to the prime minister that have yet to come out. If Dominic Cummings has that information, it looks as though he is prepared to stop at nothing to use it.

SOARES (voice-over): Cummings has denied being the source of the leaked text to the billionaire James Dyson. Johnson reportedly saying he would fix a tax issue if Dyson's staff came to the U.K. to produce ventilators during the first wave of the pandemic last year.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I make absolutely no apology at all, Mr. Speaker, for shifting him without doing everything I possibly could, as any prime minister would in those circumstances, to secure ventilators for the people of this country and to save lives.

SOARES (voice-over): Meanwhile, the opposition leader says claims about bad behavior and misconduct can't be brushed aside.

KEIR STARMER, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Every day there is more evidence of this sleaze and, frankly, it stinks.

SOARES (voice-over): Only a third of Britons think Johnson is trustworthy (INAUDIBLE) poll. The worry for the prime minister is how to limit the damage and fellow row (ph) that no signs of simmering down -- Isa Soares, CNN, London.


CHURCH: Surging COVID cases in India are threatening the entire region. Still to come, how virus variants are fueling a rise in infections just across the border in Nepal.




CHURCH: India has hit a once unthinkable milestone, 200,000 people dead from COVID-19. But a new model predicts the toll is actually much higher and could hit nearly 1 million before August.

People in the country are pleading for oxygen and medical supplies on social media. And makeshift crematoriums are being built in parks and parking lots. But help is on the way.


CHURCH: Vital medical supplies are finally reaching India, as countries around the world step up to help. The U.S. is one of those countries pledging to help India tackle its COVID-19 crisis. Here is what America's surgeon general is saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I have lost seven family members to COVID-19, both in the United States and India. We talk to our family there on a daily basis. And they are really struggling. The stories coming out of India are just absolutely heart-wrenching and they are horrifying.

It's the kind of circumstance that we hope never comes to be in our country or in our communities. We know there is uncontrolled spread of the virus in any part of the world. That means that variants can arise, variants which may over time become resistant to the protection that we get from vaccines, which could mean a real problem for us here in the United States.

So it's in all of our interests to make sure that countries around the world are protected, that they have vaccine, that they have the ability to limit the spread of infection by using PPE and other methods. And that's what we've got to do.


CHURCH: COVID cases in Nepal are rising at a rate of 30 percent, compared to 3 percent or 4 percent just a couple weeks ago. Part of that is driven by people crossing the border from neighboring India. CNN's Lynda Kinkade has more.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In parts of Nepal, hospitals are struggling to cope with the sudden surge in cases.

"He was brought to a hospital in an ambulance because he was having trouble breading," says this woman whose husband has COVID-19. But she says no doctor has seen him. Yet everyone is busy.

The medical staff are struggling to keep up with new infections. Johns Hopkins University data shows cases are rapidly rising across the country, with the highest number of daily infections since the October peak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Now the hospital beds are full. This is the beginning of another wave. We are a little surprised, as the people are getting infected and falling sick rather quickly and are having to get admitted to hospitals.

KINKADE (voice-over): Some public health experts warn that thousands of people may have caught more infectious variants first identified in the U.K. and in neighboring India. Now some border cities have become hot spots, raising fears that the situation will only worsen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I call that a mini India. If the same thing replicates in a densely populated city like Kathmandu, it may give rise to a difficult situation.

KINKADE (voice-over): The capital is one of a number of cities across the country imposing lockdowns starting Thursday. Local governments are hoping to prevent infections from spreading as the vaccination campaign could soon be in peril.

Nepal depends, in part, on India's Serum Institute for vaccines. But India is prioritizing its own needs as infections there spiral out of control.

In Nepal, the decision to reopen Mt. Everest to climbers is proving challenging. COVID-19 has reportedly reached base camp. The government, however, denies those reports and Nepalese officials say they have not received any official notices of that -- Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


CHURCH: Another of India's neighbors, Pakistan, is ensuring the COVID crisis doesn't spill across its border. The country has just reported its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began, 201 fatalities in the past 24 hours.

Troops are patrolling the streets in 16 major cities to make sure people are wearing masks and nonessential businesses are closing at 6 pm. More now from CNN's Sophia Saifi.


SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: The Pakistani government has enforced certain measures to make sure the situation does not get as bad as it is in neighboring India. What they've done is the army has been called in.

The prime minister has spoken directly to the public, requesting that they follow SOP, that they wear masks, that, during the month of Ramadan, they ensure that there is proper social distancing.

The Pakistani government has also gone ahead and made an announcement that the government is going to be enforcing a complete ban, interprovincial travel during the holidays of Eid in the middle of May. There's also been an announcement of a complete ban on tourism between the 8th and 16th of May.

There is a very real concern of oxygen supplies running out in the country. Medical officials have come out and said that 80 percent of the country's oxygen supply is already in use by medical institutions.

They've said that due to that, the two major provinces of Sindh and Punjab have gone ahead and banned nonurgent surgical procedures in the country. In case somebody has tonsillitis or breaks a bone, has a kidney stone, they cannot be operated upon unless it's a complete emergency measure or if it's urgent.

So due to that, there is a real concern amongst the Pakistani people, there's a concern due to the month of Ramadan. There's a concern because of the impending Eid holidays and there's the concern and fear amongst the Pakistani people that things should not and cannot get as bad as they are next door.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [02:35:00]

CHURCH: Pakistan has recorded more than 17,000 deaths and 800,000 infections overall.

Thailand's prime minister is being fined for not wearing a face mask. He is masked up here at a hospital but he wasn't, in a picture posted up on Facebook, showing him at a government meeting. The photo has been removed but he still has to pay $190.

Bangkok has mandated masks in public as the country battles another wave of the coronavirus. More than 2,000 new infections were reported Tuesday, with 15 deaths.

A demand to return to civilian rule: coming up, the deadly protests in Chad and what the uncertainty could mean for the entire region.




CHURCH: There are signs that the crisis in Myanmar is turning into a wider conflict. Ethnic minority Karen insurgents attacked the Myanmar army outpost near the Thai border on Tuesday. The Karen National Union and Thai authorities said the military hit back with airstrikes.

The Thai military moved more than 450 villagers away from the border for their safety. Villagers said they heard heavy gunfire before dawn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have never heard the sounds of guns like this. I've never seen people needing to flee like this. I'm really concerned for all the villagers. I'm also afraid, because we live along the border.


CHURCH: Meanwhile, a group that claims to be a new fighting force against Myanmar's junta released a video of members training in an area held by the KNU. A founder of the united defense force said they are protesters who fled the crackdowns.

She said they will train for three months to fight, not for a party or an individual but, quote, "for the people."

South Africa's president is expected to testify in the coming hours in a long running government corruption investigation. Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to appear in his capacity as president before the African National Congress. The inquiries are talking about high levels of corruption during the time of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

Two Spanish journalists have been killed in an ambush in Burkina Faso. They've been identified as Roberto Fraile and David Beriain. An Irish citizen was also killed. Reports say they were traveling with an anti poaching patrol near a nature reserve.

The West African nation of Burkina Faso faces a deepening security crisis with increasing attacks by Islamic militant groups. The U.N. says the region is experiencing a critical humanitarian crisis.


CHURCH: Chad's transitional military leader is calling for national unity. In his first nationwide address since coming to power, the son of longtime ruler Idriss Deby defended stepping in as the country's interim leader last week after his father's battlefield death.

But protesters are demanding a return to civilian rule in demonstrations that turned deadly on Tuesday. The shift in power raises broader questions about security and stability. Melissa Bell talks about the fears that Chad's internal upheaval could spread across the region.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He had just won his sixth term but Idriss Deby died as he came to power: violently. It wasn't his first front line but the war being waged against his 30 year-long grip on power by the fact or the Front for Change and Concord in Chad in Northern Chad, was to be his last.

By his funeral on Friday, his son, Mohamed Deby, had controversially taken power; alongside him, Chad's former colonial power, steadfast in its support. France backed Deby's coup in 1990 and was there at the end, too.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): France will never let anyone, either today or tomorrow, challenge Chad's stability and integrity.

BELL (voice-over): France said it has not carried out any airstrikes but has provided intelligence to help Chad's army against the rebels. This thanks to its back end force which is based in N'Djamena. Its 5,000 troops are fighting a range of Islamist groups in the broader Sahel, alongside regional forces.

Chadian troops are one of France's most reliable partners. If they pull, out to focus on trouble at home, militant groups will take notice.

CAMERON HUDSON, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: If they interpret this as a power vacuum, if they interpret a lack of political continuity within Chad as an opportunity, then you are likely to see bold moves by Boko Haram or other extremist groups throughout the Sahel, in which case French and other could really be put on their heels as a result of Chad's withdrawal and all the political uncertainty emanating from N'Djamena now.

BELL (voice-over): That uncertainty was borne across the border in Libya, where the fact rebellion trained and fought alongside another of France's allies, the troops of General Khalifa Haftar and his Russian mercenaries.

The 2020 Libyan cease-fire and peace process forced foreign fighters out of the country. As the largely ethnically Goran FACT headed south, they were joined by Toubou and Tuareg rebels, too, but their initial optimism that the government was vulnerable soon faded amid heavy aerial bombardments by the Chadian army.

But Mohamed Deby is not only facing a rebellion in the north but questions also about the legitimacy of his rule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can only agree with those who currently condemn the setting up of a military body. It looks like a coup. It should not be a coup.

BELL (voice-over): For Mohamed Deby's first week in power, the support of France was critical. The question now is whether it will be enough to ensure the stability that Idriss Deby so long represented -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


CHURCH: Thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back at the top of the hour. "WORLD SPORT" is coming up.