Armed men killed 13 people and wounded two in a northern village in the mineral-rich but impoverished Central African Republic, local officials said Wednesday.
Ousmane Youssef, a tribal chief in the village of Diki near the country’s border with Chad, said a group of armed men entered the community Tuesday and called a meeting with local residents and leaders, before shooting them point-blank.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but in March, the U.N. condemned an attack on another northern town by a rebel group called the Coalition of Patriots for Change.
“We don’t know the real motives of the rebels who perpetrated this act of rare intensity. This is the moment when the government must help us put an end to the rebels who are undermining security in the area,” said Babikir Hallasan, deputy mayor of the nearest major town.
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The Central African Republic has faced intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and forced then-President Francois Bozize from office. Majority-Christian militias later fought back, also targeting civilians in the streets. The United Nations, which has a peacekeeping mission in the country, estimates the fighting has killed thousands and displaced over a million people, one fifth of the country’s population.
Sultan Ibrahim Kamoun Senoussi, a local traditional and government leader, said the assailants have not been identified, but local armed forces have been ordered to pursue them.
In March, the U.N. condemned an attack on another northern town by the Coalition for Patriots of Change, a cohort of Christian and Muslim-majority rebel groups, which operate along the border between CAR and Chad.
The tragedy in Diki comes days after CAR held a national referendum that could see the adoption of a new constitution that strengthens executive powers and allows current President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to run for a third term. Rebel groups, including the CPC, have boycotted the referendum and threatened violence against voters across the country.