Central African Republic rebels kill at least five civilians in attack

BANGUI (Reuters) – At least five civilians were killed when rebels attacked a town in northwest Central African Republic on Thursday, the latest reported escalation in a decade-long conflict, a local official said.

Members of an alliance of armed groups known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) assaulted the town of Moyenne Sido near the border with Chad before sunrise, Mayor Salomon Yamindji said via telephone.

Residents were woken up by the sound of gunfire as over 300 assailants stormed the town, he said, giving a provisional death toll of five.

One survivor confirmed the death toll and said one of the victims was a woman.

The CPC later issued a statement saying it had taken over the town and called on residents to join its ranks. The army did not respond to calls.

CPC militants are seeking to overturn the outcome of an election in December 2020 that saw President Faustin-Archange Touadera clinch a second term.

The army, backed by United Nations peacekeepers, Russian and Rwandan troops, has been fighting the group for years.

The U.N. has accused all parties of abuses including summary killings, torture, conflict-related sexual violence and the use of child fighters among others.

Mineral-rich Central African Republic has been mired in violence since a coalition of mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted then-President Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking reprisals from mostly Christian militias.

The CPC usually operates by attacking towns, villages and army posts. They killed at least six soldiers in an attack on a military outpost in April last year and assaulted a city in the west of the country later in October.

(Reporting by Judicael Yongo; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Bhargav Acharya and Jonathan Oatis)