By G9ija

Around 100 people have died in clashes between gold miners in northern Chad, Defence Minister General Daoud Yaya Brahim said on Monday.

Violence broke out on May 23 at Kouri Bougoudi near the Libyan border, sparked by a “mundane dispute between two people which degenerated”, he said, adding that the toll was “around 100 dead and at least 40 wounded.”

The clashes occurred in the rugged Tibesti Mountains in the central Sahara, some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the Chadian capital N’Djamena.

The discovery of gold there has sparked a rush of miners from across Chad and neighbouring countries, and tensions often run high.

The clashes were between Mauritanians and Libyans, the minister said.

He spoke to AFP by phone from the area, where he said he was with a large military contingent sent to help 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.”

The incident was first announced on Wednesday, when Communications Minister Abderaman Koulamallah said in a statement there had been “loss of human life and several wounded,” but gave no further details.