Fighting between Chadian and Sudanese rebels at a remote goldmine in northern Chad has left dozens dead, local and rebel sources said on Sunday.
The fighting pitting Chadian rebels against a Sudanese group close to the N’Djamena government took place Saturday in the Kouri Bougoudi regions, the sources said.
Members of the Sudanese Movement for Justice and Equality (MJE) “attacked our positions… and we responded,” said Cheikh Tahir of the Chadian rebel group, the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR).
Tahir said he took part in the fighting.
Sources said the MJE rebels had crossed over from neighbouring Libya aboard dozens of vehicles.
A Chadian security source said the MJE was responding to an attack in late December against gold panners belonging to the same ethnic group that left at least 30 gold miners dead, according to a rights group.
CCMSR rebels said government forces backed the MJE during a second clash on Sunday.
The MJE, a rebel group from western Sudan, is known to be close to Chadian President Idriss Deby, who is himself from eastern Chad on the border with Sudan.
The remote mountainous region of Kouri Bougoudi straddling the border between Chad and Libya has been a theatre of violence since gold was discovered there in 2012 and 2013.
Miners have rushed in from around Chad and abroad, leading to friction over access to lucrative sites.
The Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights accuses the government of orchestrating a takeover of the area by using Arab fighters.
In August last year, the government carried out a military operation in the region aimed at “clearing out” illegal miners and stopping cross-border incursions from Chadian rebels holed up in Libya.
It has authorised several mining companies to exploit the deposits.