An airstrike which targeted a base housing troops of the Central african republic (CAR) and their Russian paramilitary ally Wagner PMC on 26 November has left observers bewildered.
The airstrike carried out in the middle of the night targeted a military base in Contenaf Base in Bossangoa region, housing both government and contractors from Russian private military company Wagner Group. The unknown aircraft flew out of CAR after the raid around three in the morning.
The Central African Republic on Monday, threatened to retaliate against the unprovoked attack. “This despicable act perpetrated by the enemies of peace will not go unpunished, ” the Information Minister Serge Ghislain Djorie said.
“The explosives caused major material damage,” the government statement said. “This plane, after committing these crimes … headed north… before crossing our border.”
Chad lies north of Bossangoa.
Cameroon also has a border with CAR, but lies to the west, while South Sudan is much farther off to the northeast.
This is not the first time CAR and its ally Wagner are coming under attack from an unknown aircraft. Last year, a plane also bombed a cotton factory along the border which was used as a Russian and CAR military base at 02:50 in the early morning. The unidentified aircraft dropped four bombs on the base. The aircraft was reported to be very silent in flight, similar to the one that attacked last month.
In the incident, a combined force of CAR and Wagner troops were pursuing a militia group near a Chadian military border post when the aircraft attacked. Six Chaduan and three Russian soldiers were killed.
Wagner personnel trains , assist, and guard CAR’s gold and diamond mines. They have helped to hold off armed rebel groups and to keep President Faustin-Archange Touadera in power.
In 2020, President Faustin-Archange Touadera called Moscow for help when a coalition of rebels advanced on the capital Bangui, threatening to oust the government. Moscow proceeded to deploy additional contingent of troops to add to the hundreds already deployed since 2018.
These prompted France, the former colonial power to withdraw its troops from the country. These action also contributed to Mali demanding the removal of French troops in the area.
Chad may likely have carried out the attack against Wagner and CAR troops on the behest and assistance of France.
Chad’s General Mahamat Itno Déby commands what is considered the region’s toughest security force, backed by French and American support, in the fight against militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, which have killed thousands and displaced millions in their quest to destabilizing swaths of neighboring Nigeria, Mali and Niger.
Since then, both France and the U.S. has provide military aid to Chad, while Mr. Deby, a former general, has invested a significant part of the nation’s oil wealth in modernizing its military, including an air force that can strike enemy positions.
“The Chadians have a real combat capacity that is undeniable,” said Col. Louis Pena, chief of staff of Operation Barkhane, the French military’s N’Djamena-based counterinsurgency effort in the Sahel region.
Chad operates six Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft, a three MiG-29, a number of Czech L-39 Albatross light attack and trainers, an armed Pilatus PC7and PC9 as well as SF260M.
For a long time, France has been providing military assistance and training to Chadian forces. France considers its former colony as vital in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa and based its 4,500-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force in the capital N’djamena where the United States also has a base.
In May 2019, French warplanes based in Chad carried out an airstrike to prevent Libyan armed militias from crossing into norther Chad in a column of 40 pickup trucks. According to the French military spokesman Patrik Steiger , it said that French forces acted at the behest of the Chadian Governement request.
“This intervention at the request of Chadian authorities helped hinder this hostile advance and disperse the column,” French Military said.
The warplanes which are the Mirage 2000s are based near N’Djamena, the Chadian capital, as part of France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism force in the Sahel. The airstrikes were against the rebel Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR) based in southern Libya which just recently increased its activities last year in a bid to topple the Chadian President Idriss Deby.
This is not the first time France is conducting aerial operations in support of Chad. In mid-February 1986, French forces launched Operation Épervier — France’s intervention in the Libya-Chad war. The French air force deployed to Chad’s capital N’Djamena around a dozen Jaguar A fighter-bombers and up to six Mirage F.1C interceptors from various units along with a few Mirage F.1CR tactical reconnaissance fighters.
The warplanes spent months chasing away Libyan planes and, more than once, came close to shooting them down.
In 2009, Chadian aircraft launched an air raid inside Sudanese territory, days after reports the countries were planning reconciliation talks. Sudan accused Chad of launching three bombing raids on its territory in May. Chad has said it has the right to deal with attacks from insurgents within Sudan‘s borders.