Five civilians and a soldier were killed in the latest attack by armed groups in volatile Central African Republic, plagued by fighting between rebels and the army, a local official said Monday.
Rebel fighters attacked army positions of Central African forces on Sunday in the town of Mann, some 600 kilometers (370 miles) northwest of Bangui, local sub-prefect Jean-Ulrich Sembetanga told AFP.
“The toll is five civilians killed, one Central African soldier and one rebel,” Sembetanga said, blaming the powerful 3R (Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation) group, active in the northwest of the country and mainly made up of the Fulani ethnic group.
The news came hours after a report that 15 civilians were killed in the central east of the former French colony December 6 and 7.
The U.N. MINUSCA mission said Monday that others were mutilated in the attack some 400 kilometers east of Bangui, and that some 1,500 people were forced from their homes.
The organization added it had evidence of “cases of amputation, extortion and destruction of homes and the displacement of upwards of 1,500 people,” pointing the finger of blame at a mainly Christian and animist militia known as the anti-Balaka.
MINUSCA added it “strongly condemns the recent violence deliberately targeting civilian populations.”
One of the poorest countries in the world, the CAR descended into conflict in 2013 when then-President Francois Bozize was ousted by a rebel coalition called the Seleka, drawn largely from the Muslim minority.
The coup triggered a sectarian bloodbath between the Seleka and anti-Balaka forces.
In December last year, rebels launched a new offensive against President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s regime on the eve of presidential elections.
Touadera won reelection, and his army has now reconquered the lost territory — the United Nations and France say with key support from Russia’s Wagner private security group — as well as crack Rwandan troops.
Moscow denies the allegations.
Touadera on October 15 decreed a unilateral cease-fire with a view to opening a dialogue with armed groups. The main groups responded by announcing they would abide by the truce.
But on November 28, some 30 civilians and two soldiers were killed in an attack in the northwest which authorities blamed on the 3R group.