The Central African government said a plane that flew back to a neighboring country bombed a base of its army and Russian paramilitary allies in the northwest on Monday, threatening retaliation.
The aircraft "dropped explosives in the town" of Bossangoa "targeting the base of our defense forces, that of our allies as well as the cotton factory," the government of this country where the army and hundreds of fighters from the Russian private security group Wagner are fighting rebels said in a statement.
This is the first time, at least publicly announced, that a suspected attack by a hostile aircraft has occurred at least since the civil war began in 2013.
The attack occurred in the middle of Sunday night, shortly before 3 a.m., according to Bangui.
"These explosives caused significant material damage," the statement continued.
"This aircraft, after committing these crimes headed north before crossing our borders," the government said. Chad is located near the north of Bossangoa, a town that was until recently in the hands of rebels.
An investigation has been opened to "establish responsibility" for "this despicable act perpetrated by enemies of peace (which) cannot go unpunished" and "all measures have already been taken to deal with any eventuality," the statement concluded.
Relations are tense between Chad and the Central African Republic. Bangui accuses N'Djamena of allowing armed groups to use its territory as a fallback base and of having granted asylum to their main leader, former president François Bozizé.
In late May 2021, Chad accused the Central African army of killing six of its soldiers, five of whom were "abducted and executed," in an attack on a border post on its territory.
- "Without headlights" -
An aircraft "bombed the Russian base at 2:50 a.m., we heard at least four bombs but as it was night, we did not see the plane which was without headlights and made little noise," Etienne Ngueretoum, regional director of Water and Forests in Bossangoa, told AFP by telephone.
He said two bombs exploded in his garden, which adjoins a Russian-occupied cotton factory.
"The detonations were frightening, I'm fine, I just had a graze on my right leg from the shrapnel," he said.
The mayor of Bossangoa, Pierre Denamguere, also confirmed the attack by phone to AFP. "It was a plane without lights and that we could not identify, the target was the cotton factory that the Russians and the armed forces use as a base, there is not too much damage," he commented.
President Faustin Archange Touadéra's government called on Moscow to come to the rescue when the rebels were advancing rapidly toward Bangui in December 2020.
Russian paramilitaries, including from Wagner, landed by the hundreds, bolstering hundreds more present since 2018.
The armed groups, which then occupied two-thirds of the Central African Republic, were quickly pushed back from most of their strongholds but continued to conduct sporadic guerrilla actions against the military and its allies, particularly between Bossangoa and the Chadian border.