Death Toll Now 5 in Worst Attack on UN in Central African Republic

Rebels seen here in 2007 in the north of the Central African Republic. Photo: hdptcar / Wikimedia Commons

UNITED NATIONS — The death toll has risen to five in the worst attack on U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic with the discovery of the body of a missing Moroccan soldier, the United Nations said Thursday.

Four Cambodian soldiers also died  one in Monday night’s ambush by a Christian rebel group and battle that followed near Bangassou, about 474 kilometers (295 miles) east of Bangui, the U.N. said. The bodies of three missing Cambodians were found on Tuesday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that searchers found the body of the missing Moroccan near Bangassou, about 474 kilometers (295 miles) east of Bangui where the ambush occurred.

A U.N. official said the bodies of the four peacekeepers who had been missing were badly mutilated, making identification difficult. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In the attack, Dujarric said nine Moroccans and one Cambodian were also wounded, none with life-threatening injuries.

Eight fighters from the Christian anti-Balaka rebel group were also killed, he said.

Dujarric said the U.N. is conducting an investigation and “we are working with the Central African authorities to try to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice.”

The country descended into sectarian conflict in 2013 when Muslim rebels overthrew the nation’s Christian president.

The United Nations launched a peacekeeping mission there in 2014 and now has more than 12,000 troops deployed to protect civilians from violence between Christian and Muslim factions. Some 890,000 people have been displaced inside the country and into neighboring Cameroon, the U.N. says.

The latest fighting began in February and Human Rights Watch said last week that at least 45 people have been killed and 11,000 displaced in attacks by armed groups that have also targeted civilians.

One predominantly Peul faction of the mostly Muslim Seleka group has been fighting since late 2016 with another faction that has aligned itself with the Christian anti-Balaka group as they vie for control of the central part of the country, the rights group said.

The U.N. Security Council condemned Monday’s attack “in the strongest terms” and reiterated that attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes. Members called on the Central African Republic’s government to swiftly investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Amnesty International and civil society groups in the Central African Republic launched a national campaign Thursday urging authorities to tackle what they called “a deeply entrenched culture of impunity which has prevented thousands of victims of human rights abuses and crimes under international law from receiving any form of justice.”

The campaign calls for tougher government action against impunity and international funding for the country’s new Special Criminal Court.

Story: Edith M. Lederer