The three mediators from Burundi were caught in an onslaught the UN described as a possible war crime. Fighting is continuing between rebels and government forces as the country prepares for an election.
Three United Nations peacekeepers have been killed by unidentified combatants in attacks across three different locations in the Central African Republic, the UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson said in a statement.
The attacks, which also saw two people wounded, took place in Dekoa, central Kemo Prefecture, and in Bakouma, in the southern Mbomou Prefecture.
The country is currently embroiled in a violence-hit general election campaign as fighting continues between rebels and government forces.
Ahead of the polls, 63-year-old incumbent President Faustin Archange Touadera has accused his predecessor Francois Bozize of plotting a coup.
Possible war crime
The UN released a statement saying it “strongly condemns today’s attacks by unidentified armed combatants on Central African national defense and security forces, and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission.”
The statement attributed to UN chief Antonio Guterres continued: “The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased peacekeepers. He wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.”
“The Secretary-General recalls that attacks against United Nations peacekeepers may constitute a war crime. He calls on the Central African Republic authorities to investigate these heinous attacks and swiftly bring perpetrators to justice.”
The incident occurred shortly after a rebel coalition called off a ceasefire, saying it would resume its march on the capital.
The killings took place ahead of Sunday’s first-round vote to elect the President and National Assembly.
If no candidate for head of state receives more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will take place in mid-February.
Going into the polls, incumbent President Faustin Archange Touadera has accused his predecessor Francois Bozize of plotting a coup.
Bozize — who is under UN sanctions and barred from running — denies the charges.
The oil-rich nation has been at the center of a fierce conflict for years, with clashes between a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition and Christian militias after Bozize was toppled in 2013.
A French military intervention together with a UN peace mission temporarily stabilized the country with a peace agreement signed in 2019, but there are recurring flare-ups of violence.
The recent increase in brutality has prompted Russia and Rwanda to deploy military consultants and troops in the landlocked country.
jsi/mm (AFP, dpa)