C.Africa Says Border Nation Bombed Its Troops and Russian Allies
The Central African Republic threatened Monday to take reprisals after an aircraft flew in from a neighboring country in the middle of the night and bombed CAR troops and their Russian paramilitary allies.
The government said the plane targeted a military base and “dropped explosives on the town” of Bossangoa, in the north, but caused only material damage.
The aircraft flew back out of CAR after the raid before three in the morning, the government said in a statement.
“The explosives caused major material damage,” it said.
“This plane, after committing these crimes … headed north … before crossing our border.”
Chad lies north of Bossangoa, a town which was in rebel hands until recently, and relations with the CAR have been tense recently.
The government said the air raid “could not go unpunished” and an inquiry had been opened “to determine responsibilities” for the “ignoble act perpetrated by the enemies of peace.”
Cameroon also has a border with CAR, but that lies to the west while South Sudan is much further off to the northeast.
Bangui has accused Chad of allowing armed groups to use its territory as a rear base and to have given asylum to their main leader Francois Bozize who was CAR president from 2003-2013.
N’Djamena in turn alleged a Chadian rebel had sought the backing of Russia paramilitaries in CAR, before rallying to the regime.
In May last year, Chad charged CAR soldiers with “war crimes” over the killing six of its soldiers at a border post. And in December 2021, a Chadian soldier disappeared with troops from both sides exchanging fire along the border.
“A plane bombed the Russians’ base at 02:50 in the morning,” regional water and forestry director Etienne Ngueretoum told AFP from Bossangoa by telephone.
“We heard at least four bombs but as it was dark we didn’t see the plane which had no lights and made little noise,” he added.
“The blasts were frightening, I’m OK I just got a scratch on the right leg from the shrapnel.
“I found nails and bits of iron in the roof of my house which is no longer inhabitable,” Ngueretoum said after two bombs exploded in his garden, adjacent to the base.
The town’s mayor Pierre Denamguere also confirmed the attack to AFP by telephone.
“It was a plane without lights and we couldn’t identify. The target was the cotton factory which the Russians and the armed force use as a base. There’s not too much damage,” he said.
The CAR is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world, experiencing few moments of peace since it became independent from France in 1960.
It plunged into bloody civil conflict in 2012 that was eased by an intervention by former colonial power France, and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission.
In 2020, a coalition of rebels advanced on the capital Bangui, threatening to oust the government.
President Faustin Archange Touadera called Moscow for help and hundreds of paramilitaries were deployed on top of hundreds already in the country since 2018 to help repel the threat.
Large swaths of territory have been reclaimed from the rebels who nonetheless continue to carry out sporadic attacks on the military, particularly in the area between Bossangoa and the Chadian border.
The Russians are described by Bangui as military advisers but by France, the UN, and others as mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group.