Earlier this week, three Russian journalists were ambushed and killed near Sibut, 300km north of Bangui, while investigating the role of a mercenary group in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The mayor of Sibut, Henri Depele, says the three reporters were killed when armed men opened fire on their vehicle at around 22:00 on Monday night.

The Wagner group

Orhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev and Kirill Radchenko were working for the Investigation Control Centre (TsUR) and are said to have been making a documentary on the Wagner group.

This private security company has been active in the CAR for sometime, and allegedly previously ‘carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in eastern Ukraine and Syria.’ The BBC reports that the group may have ‘as many as 2,500 fighters [in Syria], and has been placed under US sanctions for its alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict.’

The South China Morning Post has more information on the group here. Deutsche Welle published this interview expert Tim Glawion of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies on Russian involvement in the CAR.

According to the New York Times, ‘the journalists had tried to enter an estate where members of the security company reportedly stayed, but they were told that they needed accreditation from the country’s Defense Ministry.’ The following day they planned to meet a contact in Bambari, 235 miles away. They were ambushed while taking that journey.

Security steps

Bloomberg reports local official Marcelin Yoyo as saying – “Security forces in charge told them not to go because it was already dark. They were kidnapped by about 10 men, all turbaned and speaking only Arabic.”

Deputy editor of the TsUR, Anastasia Gorshkova, explained that before setting out for the trip, the journalists had struggled to find a translator and had tried to find security advisers. However, the latter had proven ‘impossible’ and the ‘team, all experienced war reporters, had therefore decided to go it alone.’

Robbery or something else?

Andrei Konyakhin, the chief editor of the TsUR, spoke to the Associated Press earlier this week and said he was skeptical of the idea that this was a robbery gone wrong.

Voice of America quotes him as saying – This was done in a very demonstrative fashion,” he said, wondering why the attackers didn’t bother to cover up their tracks, hide the car and why they left the driver alive. “If they could have just taken everything from them, why kill them?

However, the BBC reports colleagues of the slain men claim ‘expensive camera kit and more than $8,000 (£6,100; €6,850) in cash disappeared from the scene.’

Sources

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