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CAR: Is beer at the heart of France, Russia's battle for influence?

A general view of debris from MOCAF beer crates at the brewery in Bangui on March 10, 2023, following an arson incident.   -  
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Central African Republic

Was an arson in a brewery owned by French giant Castel in Bangui, an incident related to the battle for influence in the Central African Republic?

Arsonists attacked the MOCAF brewery located in the capital on the night of March 5 to 6.

According to sources familiar with the incident, footage from security cameras allegedly shows a planned operation by four men wearing uniforms resembling those of the paramilitary group Wagner.

The Russian company claim the attack bears the hallmarks of a ruthless campaign to carve out Russian influence in the African nation.

France and Russia have long been wrestling for influence in the nation replete with valuable forests, gold and commercial minerals.

Last December, France pulled its last troops out of CAR.

Earlier this year, Castel and MOCAF, a major local employer, were hit by smear campaigns on social media and in the streets.

French anti-terrorism prosecutors had opened a preliminary inquiry into "complicity in war crimes" over a suspected financial deal with CAR rebels to secure production sites of the firm's sugar refinery SUCAF.

Social networks and pro-Russia media outlets have attributed the brewery attack to Central Africans or disguised "mercenaries" paid by France to make it look like a Wagner attack.

On March 9, police detained eight foreigners, including four French nationals, while searching for the "inflammable liquid" used in the brewery attack.

All were released without charges a few hours later.

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