Nine Killed and 46 Injured by Explosions in Chad

( – Nine people have died, and dozens more are injured, after a military ammunition depot exploded in the central African nation of Chad. So far, there’s no clue what caused the blast, but the country has had a troubled history since becoming independent from France. It’s currently hosting thousands of refugees from neighboring Sudan, creating a tense situation that major disasters won’t help.

Late on June 18, residents in the Chadian capital of N’Djamema were woken by a series of huge explosions from a military depot in the city’s Goudji district. Huge flames and plumes of smoke rising into the sky sent panicked citizens fleeing from the danger area. The fire was finally brought under control the next day, but by the time rescue operations finished, nine people were dead, and another 54 had been injured.

Visiting the scene on June 19, President Mahamat Deby said the cause of the blast wasn’t yet known, but an investigation will be launched. Although Chad is a poor country, its military is relatively well funded; the country spends 4.2% of GDP on defense, a higher share than the US does, and receives support and training from France, which ruled the country until 1960. However, it’s also plagued by corruption.

Military reforms in 2004 found that while army commanders were being given money to pay 24,000 troops, only 19,000 actually existed. When the government tried to end this theft, the military launched a coup attempt, which failed.

That doesn’t say good things about the level of professionalism in the Chadian military –- and putting unprofessional troops in charge of an ammunition depot is asking for trouble. At least one regional expert even doubts the blast was an accident; Cameron Hudson from the Center for Strategic and International Studies thinks it “feels more like a message” to the government from Deby’s rivals inside the military.

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