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Chad: Nine people were killed and more than 40 injured when a fire set off explosions at a military ammunition depot in Chad’s capital, an official said Wednesday. Government spokesperson Abderaman Koulamallah said 46 people were being treated for various injuries after the explosions jolted residents from their sleep late Tuesday in the Goudji district of the capital, N’Djamena. The situation has been brought under control, Koulamallah said.

The explosions lit up the sky as thick smoke covered the clouds in the West African nation, setting off frantic efforts to extinguish the fire as residents fled their homes for safety. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, and President Mahamat Deby Itno said an investigation would be conducted. “Peace to the souls of the victims, sincere condolences to the bereaved families and quick recovery to the injured,” Deby said on Facebook. He later visited the scene of the accident as well as hospitals where the injured were being treated.

People thought explosions are due to armed attack

People living in the area panicked, thinking the explosion was an armed attack, resident Oumar Mahamat said. Local media reported the blasts started just before midnight as nearby buildings shook and ammunition was thrown from the depot with explosive force. Authorities called on residents to stay out of the area, which was taken over by security forces gathering the scattered artillery shells.

Allamine Moussa, a resident, called on the government to “come to our aid urgently” after he and other residents fled their homes. “Many families have recorded deaths and it’s sad,” Moussa said.

Chad, a country of nearly 18 million people, has been reeling from political turmoil before and after a controversial presidential election that resulted in Deby Itno’s victory. He had led the country as interim president during the period of military rule that followed the death of his father in 2021. Cameron Hudson, an Africa expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the explosions might not be entirely coincidental and “feels more like a message” to the government, which has been embroiled in internal political tensions and as well as regional tensions over the war in neighboring Sudan.

Recent claims about Chad’s alleged involvement in the war in Sudan create an untenable position at home for Deby Itno, said Hudson, a former US official. “A house divided cannot stand.” 

(With inputs from agency)

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