Central Africa government forces kill 44 rebels in counteroffensive

BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (AFP) – Central African Republic (CAR) troops killed 44 rebel fighters participating in a push to encircle the capital Bangui and overturn newly-reelected President Faustin Archange Touadera, the government said on Monday.

Together with “allied forces”, the CAR army launched an offensive in the village of Boyali, around 90 kilometres from the capital, with no casualties on the government side and “44 dead including several mercenaries from Chad, Sudan and the Fulani” ethnic group, the government posted on Facebook.

When the government says “allies”, it is usually referring to Rwandan troops and Russian paramilitaries which have been sent to the conflict-plagued country to reinforce federal troops.

“Government forces are back on the offensive,” government spokesman Ange-Maxime Kazagui told AFP.

He added that troops had captured the village of Boda, 124 kilometres from Bangui, with support from Russian fighters.

A Rwandan peacekeeper patrols the road leading to Damara. PHOTO: AFP

The country’s six most powerful armed groups, which control two-thirds of the CAR’s territory in an eight-year conflict, joined forces in December, calling themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC).

On December 19, they announced an offensive on Bangui aimed at preventing Touadera’s re-election in December 27’s presidential election.

But the capital was protected by a well-equipped, 12,000-strong force of United Nations (UN) peacekeepers from the MINUSCA mission, as well as CAR troops and the Russian and Rwandan reinforcements.

Monday’s government announcement about the successful attack, which AFP was unable to confirm with independent sources, is the first time authorities have issued such a precise statement about casualties among any forces other than the UN peacekeepers.

The UN has warned of the rebels trying to “strangle” the capital by cutting off the three major roads leading there.