Congo minister charged over blast

2012-10-09 17:26
Debris in Brazzaville after a blast that killed 223 people, wounded 2 300 and left more than 14 000 homeless. (Guy Gervais Kitina, AFP)

Debris in Brazzaville after a blast that killed 223 people, wounded 2 300 and left more than 14 000 homeless. (Guy Gervais Kitina, AFP)

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Brazzaville - Congo's former defence minister has been charged over explosions at a munitions dump that left nearly 300 people dead in early March, according to a document obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

Charles Zacharie Bowao, who was minister at the time of the blasts, confirmed the charges for his "mishandling, imprudence, inattention and negligence that caused the events of 4 March and led to deaths, injuries and serious property damage," in a letter addressed to the ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT) dated Sunday.

But he dismissed the charges as politically-motivated and said he would challenge them.

The powerful blasts, blamed on a short-circuit and fire, in the Congolese capital Brazzaville killed at least 282 people, injured around 2 300 others and left some 17 000 people homeless.

A few days later, Bowao called the blasts "a minor incident without significant damage." He was not reappointed during a cabinet reshuffle last month.

Twenty-six other people - mostly members of the military - have been charged and are being detained as they await trial, the date of which has not yet been set.

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