Gunmen reportedly stormed a Chinese-operated gold mining site that had recently been launched in Central African Republic, killed nine Chinese nationals and wounded two others.
However, the rebel coalition initially blamed by some for the attack put out a statement later in the day. Without providing evidence, it accused Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group of being behind the violence.
The attack early Sunday came just days after gunmen kidnapped three Chinese nationals in the country’s west near the border with Cameroon, prompting President Faustin Archange Touadera to plan a trip to China in a bid to reassure investors.
The Mayor of the nearby town of Bambari, Abel Matipata said the assault on the Chimbolo gold mine began around 5 am. when the gunmen overpowered the site’s guards and opened fire.
The mining site’s launch had taken place just days earlier, he added.
The bodies of the victims were brought to the capital, Bangui, later Sunday. Local authorities said they were pursuing the assailants, but declined further comment. Residents said that the violence was the latest incident undermining confidence in security forces.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on the Coalition of Patriots for Change, or CPC, which is active in the area and regularly launches attacks on the country’s armed forces. The alliance of rebel groups is aligned with former President Francois Bozize.