BANGUI, Central African Republic: Authorities from the Central African Republic have said that nine Chinese nationals were killed and two others wounded after gunmen stormed a Chinese-operated gold mine on the weekend.
In response, the rebel coalition initially blamed by some for the attack, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), denied responsibility and accused Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group of being behind the violence.
The attack came just days after gunmen kidnapped three Chinese nationals in the country's west, near the border with Cameroon.
After the incidents, President Faustin Archange Touadera now plans to visit China to reassure investors.
Abel Matipata, mayor of the town of Bambari, located 25 kilometers from the mine, said the assault on the Chimbolo gold mine began around 5 a.m. when the gunmen overpowered the site's guards and opened fire, adding that the site had only opened for mining days earlier.
Local authorities said they are attempting to pursue those responsible, while local residents said that the violence was the latest incident undermining confidence in security forces.
"The government is having difficulty proving its ability to protect Central Africans and foreigners living in the country," noted Bambari resident Ange Morel Gbatangue, as quoted by the Associated Press.
While suspicion fell on the CPC, an alliance of rebel groups aligned with former President Francois Bozize, its military spokesman, Mamadou Koura, said the allegations were false, claiming that Russian mercenaries launched the attack "with the goal of scaring Chinese, who were present long before the Russians settled in this part of the country."