Reuters International

DAKAR (Reuters) - France called on Thursday for an investigation into the disappearances of Chadian soldiers since last month's presidential election in its former African colony.

Human rights groups have reported cases of soldiers who vanished or were locked in cells or publicly beaten for disobeying orders to vote for the ruling party in the April 10 election, in which incumbent Idriss Deby won a fifth term.

Balkissa Ide Siddo, Central Africa campaigner for Amnesty International, told Reuters that more than 30 soldiers were now missing. "Every day, people come to see us saying that they have no news from a relative, and the number is rising."

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters: "France, like its international partners, is worried over the disappearances, reported by human rights groups, of Chadian soldiers. We want an investigation by Chadian authorities to allow light to be shed on these cases."

Authorities have said the missing soldiers were sent on a mission. Four of them were shown on April 21 on national television.

A former French colony, Chad is a strong and close ally of Paris in the fight against Islamist militants, including al Qaeda affiliates and Nigeria's Islamic State-linked Boko Haram.

Chad has one of the region's most capable militaries and hosts the headquarters of France's 3,500-troop regional anti-militant operation, known as Barkhane.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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