EBAM, Cameroon — It was the “most barbaric” act of violence Nas Ali said since Central African Republic (CAR) welcomed about four Russian mercenaries from the notorious Wagner group, which some are calling Vladimir Putin’s “private army,” years earlier.
While chatting with a friend under a mango tree about 50 meters from his home and getting a good view of his grounds from where they both stood in the village of Bèzèrè in western Central African Republic, the 32-year-old said he watched from afar as about a dozen Russian paramilitaries, appearing out of nowhere, dragged the wives of two of his neighbors off the premises, stabbed them in the abdomen and then disemboweled the two women.
“The women were screaming and begging for mercy,” Ali, who is now a refugee in Cameroon, told The Daily Beast. “The white soldiers [as many in CAR refer to Wagner mercenaries as] didn’t listen. They killed the women and removed their stomachs and entrails.”
The incident happened on December 6 last year, according to Ali and another witness. They said at least six other women in Bèzèrè were killed in the same way across the village.
“As I left the village, I saw the body of a pregnant woman,” Malik Tete, a 29-year-old bricklayer who fled Bèzèrè to Cameroon after the incident, told The Daily Beast. “They had cut her open, removed her baby and entrails and left her on her corpse.”
After the violence in Bèzèrè, thousands of people fled the village to Bocaranga, about 27 kilometers southeast of Bèzèrè, according to Ali and Tete. Many others, including the Witnesses, sought refuge in refugee settlements in eastern Cameroon.
“We were afraid that these white soldiers would come back and kill us all, so we had to leave the village,” said Ali, who fled to the town of Ngaoundere in Cameroon’s central Adamawa region. “If we hadn’t run away, we’d probably be dead already.”
Not only in Bèzèrè women are said to have been slaughtered by the Russians last December. In the nearby Létélé community, locals told The Daily Beast that they found the disemboweled bodies of four dead women on the day Russian mercenaries stormed the village in search of rebels from the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) group were in different places.
“I saw with my own eyes a white soldier stabbing a woman in the stomach with a knife,” Bissafi, a 30-year-old farmer who now lives in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, told The Daily Beast . “They said she was being punished for marrying a man who works for a rebel group.”
Given the way the victims were allegedly killed, the Russians “clearly wanted to torture the women to death,” said Sylvestre, who – like other witnesses living in the Central African Republic – identifies himself by his first name to The Daily Beast, um to protect him from possible retaliation.
Those who recognized some of the alleged victims in both Bèzèrè and Létélé said they were women living in areas in the two villages where rebels from the 3R faction, one of CAR’s most powerful armed groups, posed as Self-defense militia presented, lived been active.
“She [Russian mercenaries] believe that all men in the areas where 3R rebels have a presence are part of the rebel group,” Souleyman, a local vigilante in Létélé, told The Daily Beast. “Every time they meet people from these areas, they accuse them of supporting the rebels and even physically attack them.”
Some of the victims, according to Souleyman, who has been in contact with their families and witnesses to the killings, are wives of young men accused of being “too friendly” with 3R fighters.
The 3R group, made up mostly of Muslim ranchers, was originally formed in 2015 to protect the minority Puehl population in north-west Central African Republic, where conflicts with farmers are common. In December 2020, the group joined the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), an alliance of armed Central African Republic groups that launched an offensive shortly before the country’s presidential elections to halt the re-election of President Faustin Archange Touadéra and his government to fall. The rebels are constantly targeting CAR forces and allied Russian paramilitaries, who have subsequently launched a counteroffensive against the militants. But as a number of locals have claimed, the Russians could now wage war against civilians living in the very communities where these rebels operate.
“It’s sad that she [Russian mercenaries] are now targeting our women,” Djibril, a Bèzèrè-born artisanal miner from the southwestern town of Berbérati, told The Daily Beast. “I know two people whose wives were brutally killed by them in December [Russian] Soldiers”.
Neither the Central African Republic government nor Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close friend of President Vladimir Putin who reportedly heads the Wagner Group, responded to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on the alleged evisceration of women in Bèzèrè and Létélé. Emails sent to the spokesman for the CAR’s Ministry of Communications and Media and to Concord Management, a company majority-owned by Prigozhin, went unanswered.
“I have no words to describe what this is [Russian] Soldiers did it.”
A local official in Ouham Prefecture, which is responsible for Bèzèrè and Létélé, told The Daily Beast the prefectural government is aware of the alleged incidents in the two areas and has informed Bangui authorities.
“No one [in Bangui] even condemned what was being done to women in the affected communities,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the subject. “That’s such a pity.”
There have been previous reports of Russian-affiliated forces targeting women in the Central African Republic. In May, The Daily Beast reported how Wagner mercenaries allegedly stormed a hospital in the capital Bangui the previous month and attacked mothers recovering from childbirth and medical staff caring for them on several occasions. According to a local independent news outlet who spoke to an eyewitness, one of the victims was said to have been sexually assaulted by the mercenaries for hours.
Sources who spoke to The Daily Beast about the alleged incidents said they were appalled that the victims might not even be related to those for whose crimes they were being punished.
“Watching helpless women beg for their lives and see them slaughtered like animals is the worst thing a man can do to a fellow human being,” Ali said. “I have no words to describe what this is [Russian] Soldiers did it.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/wagner-group-accused-of-disemboweling-women-in-the-central-african-republic?source=articles&via=rss Wagner group accused of eviscerating women in Central African Republic