The Central African Republic opened an investigation on Tuesday, February 22 after the arrest, the day before, of four French soldiers operating under the banner of the UN. The fourth “legionnaires” arrested in front of Bangui airport were heavily armed and in fatigues, “of French, Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian nationality”said the Bangui public prosecutor on Tuesday evening.
According to the prosecution, the legionnaires were traveling on board a “suspicious vehicle”, unmarked without UN logo. At that time, they were escorting French General Stéphane Marchenoir, chief of staff of the peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic (Minusca) to the airport.
Shortly after their arrest, they were accused by numerous private social media accounts of wanting ” murder “ Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, whose convoy was to pass through the same place. An assertion that Paris and the UN immediately strongly denied, denouncing a ” disinformation “ and an “rough handling”.
The “legionnaires” were also seen, according to the prosecution, in possession of four automatic pistols, three assault rifles, a machine gun and grenades. The four men were “less than 30 meters from the passage of the presidential convoy”assured the prosecutor adding: “The vehicle had been followed by the police intelligence services for two months”.
The UN calls for the release “as soon as possible”
A senior UN official in the Central African Republic met President Faustin-Archange Touadéra at the end of the day in order to obtain ” as quickly as possible “ the release of the four military members of the UN Minusca mission in this country. “They carry UN identification cards” and “are not free”always “detained by the gendarmerie” Central African Republic, said United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
→ ANALYSIS. French soldiers arrested in the Central African Republic: the shadow of the Russian company Wagner
This announcement comes on the very day that France and the United States accused, through the voice of their ambassadors before the UN Security Council, of the “mercenaries” of the Russian private security company Wagner to have “executed” and “massacred” dozens of civilians. And run a campaign “systematic” of “terror” in the Central African Republic where they fight the rebels alongside the regular army.