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Congo munitions blast trial to begin

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    Local resident Patricia Inoponis stands among debris in the Mpila area of Brazzaville on March 5 last year after the blast. The trial of 23 soldiers accused in the March 2012 blast at a munitions dump in Brazzaville that left 282 people dead was due to open here Tuesday, court sources said. (AFP/File)

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    Possessions of people made homeless by the Brazzaville blast are spread out to dry on March 13 last year after rain. The blast killed 282 people and left 2,300 people injured, flattening hundreds of houses in the capital, and leaving 17,000 homeless. (AFP/File)

The trial of 23 soldiers accused in the March 2012 blast at a munitions dump in Brazzaville that left 282 people dead was due to open here Tuesday, court sources said.

According to the criminal court, which will try the case, ten jurors as well as judges were sworn in on Friday in the presence of 20 of the soldiers who are charged with arson and harming state security.

More than 2,300 people were also injured in the blasts at the Mpila munitions dump that rocked Brazzaville on March 4 last year. The explosions flattened hundreds of houses in the capital, leaving some 17,000 homeless.

The investigation into the blast led to the arrest of 26 people including the deputy chief of the national security council. Three arrested civilians were later released.

In its Monday edition, the only daily in the Congolese capital, Les Depeches de Brazzaville, said the public proceedings will be transmitted live on some local radio and television stations.

"We have a good case. We are going to the trial very confident. If justice can be rendered in the name of the Congolese people, that would be a good thing," a lawyer for the defence, Amedee Nganga, told AFP.

Colonel Marcel Tsourou, former deputy secretary general to the National Security Council, is among the defendants. His wife Charlotte Tsourou said the "officer's indictment is political and guided from above," without providing further details.