Over 30 civilians were reportedly killed by government forces and Russian mercenaries contracted to support them in a January 16-17 operation that targeted a rebel group.

Russia has been blocking UN efforts to monitor an arms embargo on the country.
Russia has been blocking UN efforts to monitor an arms embargo on the country. (Reuters Archive)

The United Nations has been investigating the alleged killing of dozens of people in the Central African Republic last week by CAR forces and mercenaries of the Russian private military company Wagner.

The UN mission known as MINUSCA in the country received reports of the incident, involving CAR troops and "other security personnel," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.

More than 30 civilians were reportedly killed, some by stray bullets, in the January 16-17 operation near the town of Bria that targeted the Union for Peace rebel group, according to UN officials speaking anonymously.

"We are currently confirming the number of casualties and displacement," Dujarric said. He added that MINUSCA dispatched a human rights team accompanied by security personnel to the area.

An anonymous military source in the country suggested the fighting could still be ongoing, saying "Central African forces and the Russians are committing a massacre."

"There have been summary executions and we are talking about 50 deaths," the source said, while spokesman for the CAR presidency Albert Yaloke Mokpeme said he had "no knowledge of this attack."

READ MORE: EU: CAR military training suspended over Russian mercenaries

'Grave human rights abuses'

In mid-2021, UN experts deployed to CAR expressed strong concerns over reports of "grave human rights abuses" by Russian mercenaries who are contracted to support government forces.

Moscow has said it has some 1,135 "unarmed trainers" in the country. But local independent groups, France and the United Nations say at least some are from the Wagner group.

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 experts group, around a dozen people sent to monitor an arms embargo on the conflict-torn country, has not been functioning since August 31.

Russia has blocked a renewal of their mandate, claiming their makeup is tilted toward the West and does not reflect true geographic diversity.

On Friday, diplomats said the block remains in place, and Western officials believe Russia sees it beneficial to prevent a renewal of the group's mission.

READ MORE: War crimes and power brokering: How far has Russia gone into Africa?

Source: AFP