At least 12 people were killed in Central African Republic on Tuesday when rebel fighters ambushed and set fire to three semi-trucks ferrying passengers from a regional capital, a local official said.
The vehicles were travelling to the small town of Alindao from Bambari, the seat of the war-torn Ouaka prefecture, when militants linked to the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) attacked from the forest, prefect Victor Bissekoin said on Wednesday.
“This is very unfortunate because innocent people lost their lives,” Bissekoin said. “The provisional toll is 12 dead and several wounded, and it is likely that the wounded will die.”
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which supports Bambari’s main hopsital, said on Wednesday that the facility received 15 dead bodies and seven patients with gunshot wounds following Tuesday’s attack.
Among the dead was a 5-year old child, MSF said.
“MSF has no information about the incident that resulted in the deaths and injuries, but we are concerned about the impact of the ongoing violence in CAR on civilians,” the statement said.
Images circulated online showed the charred cab of a semi-truck surrounded by at least 10 unburned bodies, suggesting they died away from the blaze. Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the images.
The CPC rebels could not be reached for comment.
A representative of the U.N. mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) confirmed that the attack had taken place, but did not provide further details.
The gold- and diamond-rich nation of 4.7 million people has suffered bouts of heavy violence since former President Francois Bozize was ousted in 2013. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
The current fighting between a coalition of militias and the national army was sparked by a Constitutional Court decision to bar Bozize from running in last year’s presidential election, in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera won a second term.