According to an anonymous AFP source at the UN, the latter would investigate an alleged massacre which would have caused the death of more than 30 civilians in the Central African Republic, near Bria, 600 km east of the capital Bangui. The event would have happened during a joint operation between the armed forces and mercenaries from the private Russian group Wagner, on January 16 and 17.
The action targeted the armed group Unite for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), one of the main rebel groups active in the east of the country, said this UN source according to which some victims were hit by stray bullets. The source also raised the possibility of looting.
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When contacted, the spokesman for the Central African presidency affirmed that he had no “not aware of this attack”, while another military source on site said that “The Central African armed forces and the Russians are committing a massacre”also referring to summary executions” and a heavier toll.
The United Nations mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) has undertaken to interview survivors in order to clarify the reality of the facts. “We are in the process of assessing the number of victims and displaced persons”said the spokesperson for the UN in New York, Stéphane Dujarric who confirmed that the Minusca had received information on such an operation and continued “continue to assess the situation, ensuring that the necessary measures are taken to protect civilians”.
The Wagner group is reputed to be close to the Kremlin, which Moscow denies. Russia only officially recognizes the presence of just over 1,100 unarmed instructors. An assertion denied by the NGOs on the ground, France and the UN who affirm on the contrary that some of these instructors do indeed belong to Wagner. A few days ago, the American army also confirmed the presence of the same group in Mali, contrary – again – to the denials of the junta in power in Bamako.
While the civil war, which began in 2013, had waned in recent years in the Central African Republic, the main armed groups – which already controlled two-thirds of the country – launched an offensive at the end of December 2020 a few days before the presidential election to overthrow President Faustin Archange Touadéra, running for a second term. The rebels, including the UPC, had even arrived in early January 2021 at the gates of the capital.
The African president then called on Russia for help, thus saving his power, but the presence of paramilitaries from the Russian private security group Wagner is increasingly controversial and rebel attacks continue.
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The President of the Central African Republic decreed on October 15 a “unilateral ceasefire” to promote the opening of a dialogue in the near future. Ceasefire that the main armed groups have also announced that they will respect. Except for some, like the UPC, which continued their attacks.