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Fear Grips Bria Residents In CAR As Russian Mercenaries Embark On Humiliating Searches

Central African Republic citizens in Bria town were subjected to humiliating searches by Russian mercenaries.

Russian mercenaries helping the Central African Republic government to fight armed groups on Sunday, April 25, carried out what locals described as a humiliating sacking of Bornou the “quartier riche” (quarter inhabited by the rich), and the central market of Bria town.

“Everybody, including old grandfathers and mothers, children and women, was pulled out of their houses and forced to lie on their stomachs on the ground while their houses were thoroughly searched,” a resident in Bria told HumAngle by phone Monday morning.

According to sources close to the Russians, they were searching for Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) and other armed groups’ accomplices fighting the government in Bangui and its allies.

“The Russians who have remained behind in Bria while others continue their military expedition to conquer other towns occupied by rebels, Saturday, April 24, received reinforcements in the form of 10 soldiers, three armoured tanks, one water cannon and three Nissan patrol vehicles,” a security source informed HumAngle.

“This morning of Sunday, April 25, to the surprise of everybody, they locked down Bornou quarter which is the area inhabited by the rich of the town, and forced the whole population to the ground including patients in the hospital as well as staff of the Council and people in the central market.”

The source revealed  that the mercenaries humiliated residents in their search for rebel accomplices.

“Everybody was humiliated with no exception, including old mothers and fathers as well as little children. The mercenaries searched them and emptied their pockets after sacking their houses. If the Russian mercenaries now claim they were searching for arms and accomplices of the CPC rebels, are arms and accomplices found in individual pockets?” asked Kolingba Justin, a civil society activist.

“A more spectacular scene took place in the central market where everybody, sellers, buyers, passers-by, women, men, the old, infants were forced to the ground. Market stalls were systematically looted row-by-row. In fact, it was a scene never before seen in Bria.” Justin told HumAngle.

Damage caused and goods stolen are estimated at several hundred millions of FCFA.

After the looting, the Russians went ahead to arrest two officers of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) led by the former head of state, Michel Djotodia. The arrested FPRC officials were identified as Dedicace and Hassan.

Two diamond merchants who were identified as Djouma Ndaha and Moussa Bobiri and several other civilians were also arrested.

One of the FPRC officials, Dedicace said to be very close to Michel Djotodia was publicly tortured.

A senior official in the CAR government who declined to be identified, expressed surprise at the arrest of the two FPRC officials who had decided not to follow the CPC rebels as they fled from the town because they were in support of the Bangui regime.

“The FPRC officials refused to quit Bria because they do not support the CPC rebels. They are in support of the government of President Faustin Archange Touadera so if the Russians are the allies of the Touadera government, why should they arrest and torture other supporters of the same government?” the senior government official asked.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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