France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen to visit Chad

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National (FN) party, is to make a rare visit to Africa, a party official said.

She is travelling to Chad to meet French soldiers based there as part of the Barkhane anti-terrorism force.

Chadian opposition parties say she should be banned from visiting describing her as a champion of “fascist” policies.

It is the first time Ms Le Pen is in Africa in an official capacity.

The plane carrying Ms Le Pen to Chad departed only a few hours after she took part in a live presidential debate on where she reasserted that fighting Islamist fundamentalist networks would be her priority as president.

The Barkhane force is made up of about 3,000 French soldiers along with troops from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad.

It has been set up in an effort to stifle jihadist groups in the Sahel region in West and North Africa.

Ms Le Pen’s planned meeting with the French soldiers is seen as a move to mark her commitment to stopping Islamist fundamentalism at the root before it is exported to France.

France has been hit in recent years by deadly attacks, including the Charlie Hebdo killings and the Bataclan night club attack, all claimed by radical Islamist groups.

The FN leader proposes to curb immigration and increase military spending as a way of safeguarding France against future attacks.

She wants to hike defence spending to a minimum of 2% of France’s GDP.