Chad factfile

Chad, where a foiled coup attempt left several people dead, is a poor, mainly desert country in north-central Africa with a history of instability.

Key facts:

LOCATION: At 1,284,000 square kilometres (495,800 square miles), Chad is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south and Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger to the west.

POPULATION: 11.5 million (2011, World Bank).

CAPITAL: N'Djamena.

LANGUAGES: French and Arabic.

RELIGIONS: Islam (53 percent), Christianity (30 percent, animist (20 percent.

HISTORY: Part of France's colonial empire, Chad gained independence in 1960 under the presidency of Francois Tombalbaye, who was assassinated in a military coup in 1975.

In 1980, civil war broke out in the capital between supporters of Goukouni Weddeye, president of the transitional national untiy government, backed by neighbouring Libya, and his defence minister, Hissene Habre, who seized power in 1982 after a two-year struggle.

Government forces launched an offensive in the north to recapture a region held by Libyan troops. They took back all but the Aouzou Strip, which was finally returned to Chad in 1994 after 21 years of Libyan occupation.

In December 1990, Habre was overthrown by his former military adviser Idriss Deby and took up refuge is Dakar. Indicted for crimes against humanity he is to be tried by a special court set up in Dakar last February.

Deby became the country's first president to be elected by universal suffrage in 1996. He was re-elected in 2006 and 2011, at elections boycotted by the opposition.

Since late 2005 the regime has been faced with rebellions, especially in the east of the country, which borders the Sudanese region of Darfur.

In 2008 rebels from the border region came close to overthrowing the Deby regime, briefly entering the capital before being pushed back with the help of French forces.

ECONOMY: Despite growing exports of oil and abundant reserves of uranium and gold, Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world.

About 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture, but the country is regularly threatened by famine. Cotton is a key foreign currency earner.

GNP: 690 dollars per capita (World Bank, 2011)

ARMED FORCES: 23,350 men, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2013. A restructuring of the army is underway.

In January 2013, Chad sent an army contingent to Mali to help capture the north from armed Islamist groups.