The Central African government said a plane returning to a neighboring country bombed a base of its army and its Russian paramilitary allies in the northwest on Monday, threatening reprisals.
The device “dropped explosives in the city” of Bossangoa “targeting the base of our Defense forces, that of our Allies as well as the cotton factory”, assures in a press release the government of this country where the he army and hundreds of fighters from the Russian private security group Wagner are fighting rebels. Bangui always refers to the Russian paramilitaries by the word “Allies”.
It is the first time, at least publicly announced, that an alleged attack by a hostile aircraft has occurred at least since the start of the civil war in 2013.
The attack was perpetrated in the middle of the night from Sunday to Monday, shortly before 3 a.m., according to Bangui.
“These explosives caused significant material damage,” the statement continued.
“This aircraft, after having committed these crimes (…) took the direction of the north (…) before crossing our borders”, assures the government. Chad is located close to the north of Bossangoa, a town not long ago held by rebels. Cameroon borders the Central African Republic to the west and Sudan and South Sudan are located very far to the northeast.
An investigation has been opened to “locate the responsibilities” of “this despicable act perpetrated by the enemies of peace (which) cannot go unpunished” and “all the measures have already been taken to deal with any eventuality”, concludes the communicated.
Relations are strained between Chad and the Central African Republic. Bangui criticizes N’Djamena for letting armed groups use its territory as a fallback base and for having granted asylum to their main leader, ex-president François Bozizé. And N’Djamena had accused in February 2022 an important Chadian rebel leader of having sought the support of the Wagners in the Central African Republic, even if the latter finally rallied Chadian power.
At the end of May 2021, Chad accused the Central African army of having killed six of its soldiers, including five “kidnapped and executed”, in the attack on a border post on its territory.
N’Djamena had spoken of a “war crime”. And in December 2021, soldiers from the two countries exchanged fire on both sides of the border and a Chadian soldier was reported missing.
– “Without headlights” –
An aircraft “bombed the base of the Russians at 2:50 a.m., we heard at least four bombs but as it was night, we did not see the plane which was without lights and made little noise”, told AFP by telephone Etienne Ngueretoum, regional director of Water and Forests in Bossangoa.
Two bombs exploded according to him in his garden, which adjoins a cotton factory occupied by the Russians.
“The bangs were scary, I’m fine I just had a scrape on my right leg from the shrapnel,” he said.
“I found nails and bits of iron in the roof of my house, which is no longer habitable,” he added.
The mayor of Bossangoa, Pierre Denamguere, also confirmed the attack by telephone to AFP. “It is a plane without lights and which we could not identify, the target was the cotton factory which the Russians and the armed forces use as a base, there is not too much damage”, has he commented.
The power of President Faustin Archange Touadéra called on Moscow for help when the rebels made rapid progress towards Bangui in December 2020.
Russian paramilitaries, including Wagner, have landed by the hundreds, reinforcing hundreds of others present since 2018.
The armed groups, which then occupied two-thirds of the Central African Republic, were quickly pushed back from most of their strongholds, but they continue to carry out sporadic guerrilla actions against the soldiers and their allies, particularly between Bossangoa and the Chadian border.
The UN and Western capitals accuse the Central African military and Wagner of committing crimes against civilians and the power of Mr. Touadéra to remunerate them with the mineral resources of this country among the poorest in the world, in particular gold and diamond.