NATIONAL NEWS

Armed group kills peacekeeper in Central African Republic, UN says

Jul 10, 2023, 11:40 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An unidentified armed group attacked a U.N. peacekeeping patrol Monday in the Central African Republic, killing a peacekeeper from Rwanda, the United Nations said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said initial reports indicated the U.N. patrol returned fire and killed three of the assailants.

The attack happened as the peacekeepers were providing a protective presence around the town of Sam-Ouandja, in the Haute Kotto prefecture in the Central African Republic’s east, Dujarric said.

Peacekeepers were deployed to Sam-Ouandja last week in response to an attack on the town by an armed group, which fled after the peacekeepers intervened, he said. He said the U.N. mission had expanded the security perimeter around the town over the past five days to protect the community and support aid deliveries.

Valentine Rugwabiza, head of the U.N. mission, strongly condemned the attack. She said the peacekeepers will remain in Sam-Ouandja and the mission is engaging with authorities to deploy national forces to the area, according to Dujarric.

The mineral-rich but impoverished Central African Republic has faced deadly intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and forced President Francois Bozize from office. Mostly Christian militias later fought back, also targeting civilians in the streets. Untold thousands were killed, and most of the capital’s Muslims fled in fear.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA was deployed in 2014 and now has nearly 17,500 uniformed personnel in the country. Its mandate was extended for 12 months until November.

After the constitutional court rejected Bozize’s candidacy to run for president in December 2020, President Faustin-Archange Touadera won a second term with 53% of the vote. But he continues to face opposition from a rebel coalition linked to Bozize.

Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, whose leader led a short-lived mutiny in Russia last month, have helped keep Touadera in power. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the state-run RT television network after the mutiny that hundreds of Russian fighters would remain in Central African Republic.

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Armed group kills peacekeeper in Central African Republic, UN says