Home | News    Monday 17 May 2004

Chad quells mutiny at army barracks : sources

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By Betel Mariom

N’DJAMENA, May 17 (Reuters) - Chadian security forces quelled an overnight mutiny by soldiers disgruntled over pay at an army barracks just north of the capital N’Djamena, a source close to the presidency said on Monday.

A diplomatic source said forces loyal to President Idriss Deby had surrounded the barracks on Monday and "contained" 80 to 100 mutineers, after arresting up to 30 ringleaders.

Residents in the dusty, rundown capital said they had heard sporadic shooting at about 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Monday. There was no official word on casualties.

Witnesses said there had been unusual troop movements in the central African country’s capital on Sunday with loyalist soldiers taking up positions around the state radio and television stations.

Two tanks were positioned outside the presidency on Monday morning, the diplomatic source said, although the city was otherwise calm with businesses open as normal after the weekend.

The source close to the presidency said the mutiny had been triggered by Deby’s recent decision to suspend wage payments to soldiers in an effort to fight corruption in the armed forces.

"The group of mutineers was encouraged by officers who lost out due to the president’s measures," he said. "The situation is under control. The officers have been arrested and the soldiers loyal to them have also been detained."

Deby announced he wanted to reorganise the army last year after finding out the payroll included non-existent troops and that some soldiers were claiming ranks higher than their genuine positions. He then suspended military pay earlier this year.

Despite the prospect of new oil riches since a major project led by ExxonMobil <XOM.N> started pumping crude from the south of the country in mid-2003, arid Chad remains one of the poorest nations on earth.

Its army has been battling incursions from Sudanese-backed Arab militia crossing over from the Darfur region and also Islamic militants from Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda.

Chad is one of four Sahelian countries receiving military training from U.S. experts who want to stop Islamic militants setting up base in swathes of remote, poorly-policed savannah.

Acting Defence Minister Emmanuel Nadingar declined to comment on the abortive mutiny. He said the government would issue a statement later on Monday.

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