U.N. peacekeepers killed in Central African Republic; 2021 toll rises to 9

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Jan. 19 (UPI) — The United Nations said Tuesday that an armed group in the Central African Republic has killed two peacekeepers, making January an even deadlier month for its forces.

The deaths were the eighth and ninth for U.N. peacekeepers so far in 2021. Officials said the new deaths occurred following an ambush that was blamed on the militant group UPC and anti-Balaka members.

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Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres, expressed sorrow for the peacekeepers, who were from Gabon and Morocco.

“[Guterres] recalls that attacks against United Nations peacekeepers may constitute a war crime, and appeals to national authorities to investigate these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Dujarric said in a statement.

The ambush happened near the southeastern city of Bangassou. Violence in the Central African Republic has increased since officials rejected the candidacy of former President Francois Bozize’s for national elections late last month.

Bozize took power in a 2003 coup and was removed in a 2013 rebellion. Militia groups, some supporting Bozize, have attacked civilians and peacekeepers in the process.

“The secretary-general … calls on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and engage in dialogue to advance the political process, preserve fragile gains and fulfill the country’s aspiration for lasting peace,” Dujarric added.