UN official says the body is investigating the incident involving CAR troops and ‘other security personnel’.
The United Nations is investigating the alleged killing of dozens of people in the Central African Republic last week by CAR forces and mercenaries along with Russian private military company Wagner.
More than 30 civilians were reportedly killed, some by stray bullets, in the January 17-17 operation near the town of Bria that targeted the Union for Peace rebel group, according to UN officials who spoke anonymously on Friday.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN mission known as MINUSCA in the country had received reports of the incident involving CAR troops and “other security personnel”.
“We are currently confirming the number of casualties and displacements,” Dujarric said.
MINUSCA has sent a human rights team, accompanied by security personnel, to the area, and it “continues to assess the situation and ensure that necessary measures are taken to protect civilians”, Dujarric said.
A military source in the country suggested the fighting could continue.
“Central African forces and the Russians are committing a massacre,” the source told the AFP news agency, refusing to be identified. “There were summary executions and we are talking about 50 deaths.”
Albert Yaloke Mokpeme, spokesperson for the CAR presidency, said he had “no knowledge of this attack”.
But in mid-2021, UN experts deployed to CAR expressed concern over reports of “serious human rights abuses” by Russian mercenaries contracted to support government forces.
The Wagner Group is reputed to be close to the Kremlin, and critics say it takes orders from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Russia, however, rejected criticism, saying Wagner at the time only used “instructors” for the SAR army.
Moscow said it had 1,135 “armed coaches” in the country. But local independent groups, France, and the United Nations say at least some are from the Wagner group, which now has an armed presence in several African countries, including Libya and Mali.
At the last meeting of the UN Security Council on the conflict in the Central African Republic, the United States demanded that Moscow investigate the abuses blamed on the Russians.
The UN expert group – with about a dozen people sent to monitor a arms embargo on the war-torn country – has not been operating since 31 August.
Russia has blocked a renewal of its mandate, claiming that its composition has been tilted to the West and does not reflect true geographical diversity.
Diplomats said Friday the bloc remains in place, and Western officials say Russia sees it as beneficial to prevent a renewal of the UN group’s mission.