BANGUI (AFP) — At least 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush by rebels at Kabo, near the Central African Republic‘s border with Chad, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Bangui, their families told AFP Wednesday.
The defence ministry confirmed the attack in a statement without giving the number of victims or indicating whether any soldiers had survived.
According to the families, the soldiers were on their way back to Kabo on Tuesday after an operation near the Chad border when they were ambushed.
The troops did not have time to return fire, the families said they had been told by the military in the area.
The soldiers’ bodies had not arrived back in Bangui on Wednesday, where a large number of people were milling around in the hospital morgue.
In a communique, defence ministry spokesman General Guillaume Lapo said the military unit based in Kabo had been to Moyenne Sido on a routine mission.
On their way back, the soldiers were ambushed by rebels from the Democratic Front (FDPC) led by Abdoulaye Misaine in the village of Nobandja, around 18 kilometres (11 miles) from Moyenne Sido.
“Soldiers were killed and one vehicle was put out of action,” he added.
The country’s principal rebel group, the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), said its forces were not involved in the attack.
“They were not APRD men. We don’t know who did it,” APRD leader Jean-Jacques Demafouth told AFP.
“It’s serious but I don’t think that it will threaten the “‘inclusive political dialogue’” forum, due to be held in Bangui next month.
The forum, initially set for last June and repeatedly postponed, is due to bring together a wide range of groups including the government and rebels from December 5 to 22.
One of the world’s poorest nations, the Central African Republic is plagued by insecurity in its northern territories, where rebels and bandits have been battling government troops since President Francois Bozize’s election victory in 2005.