At least 100 people have been killed in clashes between gold miners in northern Chad, Defense Minister General Daoud Yaya Brahim said Monday.
Violence erupted on May 23 in Kauri Bougoudi, near the Libyan border, “which was exacerbated by a worldwide conflict between the two men,” he said, adding that the number had risen to “about 100 killed and at least 40 injured.”
The clashes took place in the Tibetan Mountains in central Sahara, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the capital, N’Jamena.
The discovery of gold there 10 years ago gave birth to crowds of miners from Chad and neighboring countries, and tensions are often high.
Yaya Brahim said the latest clashes were between Mauritanians and Libyans.
He spoke to AFP by phone from the area, where he said he was with a large contingent of troops sent to help restore order.
“This is not the first time that there has been violence among gold miners in the region, and we have decided to suspend all gold mining in Kauri until further notice,” he said. “Most (mines in the region) are illegal.”
The incident was first announced last Wednesday, when Communications Minister Abdraman Koulamalla said in a statement that “there were casualties and several people were injured”, but gave no further details.
On the same day, the head of Chad’s National Human Rights Commission, Mahamat Nur Ibedu, told AFP that after the fighting began, “the government sent a force to intervene, which opened fire on the people.”
“According to our information, at least 200 people have died,” he said, adding that he had no evidence to support the figure.
Success Masra, the leader of an opposition party called The Transformers and Chad’s main armed rebel movement, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) and about 200 people were killed.
But Yaya Brahim denied the figures, saying the authorities were not to blame.
“Defense and security forces did not fire at all, and 200 people were killed there,” he said.
On Monday, another rebel group in the region, the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR), said in a statement that there had been “killings” that had been revealed “in the eyes of the security forces.”
The Tibetan region is notorious for inciting ethnic strife and insurgency, which has marked Chad’s history since gaining independence from France, a large Central West African country, in 1960.
In January 2019, dozens of people were killed in Kauri when fighting broke out between Libyan Arabs and people in the eastern Chadian region of Udai.
In a comment to AFP last Wednesday, the Kaulamalla gold-mining area was described as “hostile, almost illegal, it’s far west. They all go there because there is gold, so there are clashes.”
The impoverished Sahel state lost last year to its 30-year-old ruler, Idris Deby Itno, who was killed during a campaign against rebels.
He was succeeded by his son, General Mahamat Idris Deby Itno, led by a 15-member military junta.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)