100 dead in gold miners clash in Chad
100 people have died in clashes between gold miners in Northern Chad, according to the Defense Ministry.
According to Defense Minister General Daoud Yaya Brahim, almost 100 people were killed in clashes between gold miners in northern Chad on Monday.
Violence erupted on May 23 near the Libyan border in Kouri Bougoudi, starting with a "mundane dispute between two people which degenerated," he claimed, adding that the death toll was "around 100 dead and at least 40 wounded."
The fights took place in the Tibesti Mountains, a harsh and dangerous region of central Sahara around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from N'Djamena.
The discovery of gold there ten years ago triggered a rush of miners from Chad and neighboring nations, and emotions are frequently intense.
According to Yaya Brahim, the most recent skirmishes were between Mauritanians and Libyans.
He called AFP from the location, where he said he was part of a big military force ordered to assist restore order.
"This isn't the first time that there's been violence among gold miners in the region, and we have decided to suspend all gold mining at Kouri until further notice," he said, adding that "the great majority (of mines in the area) are illegal."
Last Wednesday, Communications Minister Abderaman Koulamallah claimed in a statement that there had been "loss of human life and several wounded" but provided no other specifics.
The same day, Mahamat Nour Ibedou, the president of Chad's National Human Rights Commission, told AFP that once the violence erupted, "the government sent in a force to intervene, which fired on people."
"According to our information, there are at least 200 dead," he said, adding that he has no proof to back up this statistic.
Brahim refuted this statistic and said that the authorities were not to blame.
Brahim stated that "the defense and security forces absolutely did not open fire, and there were not 200 deaths."
A regional rebel organization, the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR), stated in a statement on Monday that there had been "carnage" that had occurred "under the complicit gaze of the security forces."
The Tibesti area is infamous for ethnic strife and the fomenting of revolts, which have characterized Chad's history since the country's independence from France in 1960.
Several dozen persons were killed in Kouri in January 2019 after fighting erupted between Libyans and residents of the eastern Chadian province of Ouaddai.
In comments to AFP last Wednesday, Koulamallah branded the gold-mining area as a "hostile zone, almost lawless, it's the Far West. They all go there because there's gold, so there's conflict."
Idriss Deby Itno, the poor Sahel state's 30-year ruler, was slain last year during an operation against insurgents.
His son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, took his position at the helm of a 15-member military junta.