Chad said Wednesday that its troops had killed “bandits” in an unprecedented joint operation in neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), whose border area is gripped by ethnic unrest.
“The Chadian and CAR armed forces carried out a joint operation inside CAR at the end of last week,” Chadian Defense Minister Daoud Yaya Ibrahim told AFP.
The mission took place in the Paoua area near the border, he said.
“Two of the bandits’ bases were destroyed, around a dozen were killed and 30 were arrested,” he said.
General Ibrahim gave no details about the identity of the targeted group, other than to implicitly deny CAR media reports that they were Chadian rebels who had fled to CAR.
“They are not rebels but bandits, who kill herders, steal their cattle and take them across the border,” he said
Those arrested “are all Chadians and will be answerable to a Chadian court,” he said.
Chad has said that 18 villagers in the south of the country were killed on May 8 by armed men who came from the CAR.
Ties between the CAR and Chad, two of the poorest and most troubled countries in the world, have often been tense.
Relations have been marked by mutual accusations that the other country is harboring armed rebels.
The CAR government did not confirm the assertion about the joint action, saying only that a “consultation mission” from both countries’ armies had met “in order to calm the situation.”
The fertile border areas of Chad, Cameroon, and CAR have been gripped by confrontation between predominantly Muslim nomadic herders and sedentary farmers who are typically Christian or animist.
Tensions are historically rooted in rivalry over land.
The farmers often accuse the herders of letting their cattle trample their crops and eat them, while the herders say they have the traditional right to graze there.
The governor of the southwestern Chadian region of Western Logone, General Ahmat Dari Bazine, told AFP by phone that the military operation had been carried out under “right of pursuit” against criminals.
“It’s the first time in history that we have carried out a joint operation” with the CAR army, he said, without giving details on the scale.