A munitions explosion at a Cambodian army base kills 20 soldiers, but its cause is unclear

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CHBAR MON, Cambodia (AP) — Security was tight around a military base in southwestern Cambodia on Sunday, a day after a huge explosion there killed 20 soldiers, wounded others and damaged nearby houses.

Guards sought to keep media away from the site in Kompong Speu province.

Hun Manet said in a Facebook post on Saturday that he was “deeply shocked” when he received the news of the blast in the province’s Chbar Mon district. It was not immediately clear what caused it.

A villager living nearby told The Associated Press on Sunday that he trembled after hearing the blast because he had never before experienced such a loud explosion.

“When the explosion happened, I was fixing my house with some construction workers,” said Chim Sothea. “Suddenly there was a loud explosion, causing my house to shake and breaking tiles on my roof. They fell down but luckily they didn’t fall inside the house.”

Images from the scene showed several badly damaged buildings on the base, at least one with its roof blown off, and soldiers receiving treatment in a hospital. Other photos showed nearby houses with holes in their roofs.

Four buildings — three for storage and one work facility — were destroyed and several military vehicles damaged, Col. Youeng Sokhon, an army officer at the site, said in a brief report to army chief Gen. Mao Sophan, posted on social media. He added that 25 villagers’ homes were damaged as well. Photos of the base showed the damaged structures in a large field, apparently with no civilian structures close by.

Another villager, who asked to be named only as Sophal, told AP he had heard a sharp sound, and when he saw smoke rising from the direction of the army base, he realized it was an explosion at the arms depot. He then ran back to his house from the small shop where he sells food and drink to shelter inside with his wife and two children.

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