One of the Central African Republic’s most powerful rebel groups announced Friday that its chief had died from wounds received during a November attack.
Sidiki Abass, head of the Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation group (3R), died on March 25, the group – part of a coalition seeking to overthrow President Faustin Archange Touadera – said in a statement.
Abass, whose real name was Bi Sidi Souleymane, died in hospital in the country’s north, it said, adding he had been “seriously wounded” during attacks in the town of Bossembele on November 16.
His group is made up largely of the Fulani ethnic group, whose members are traditionally nomadic herders.
It was initially formed to ostensibly defend the Fulani in the country’s northwest, where conflicts between nomadic herders and farmers are common.
In December, 3R joined with the Coalition of Patriots for Change, an alliance of some of the war-torn country’s most powerful armed groups.
The alliance launched an offensive two weeks before December presidential elections in a bid to prevent a victory by Touadera and to overturn his government.
The well-equipped 3R were on the frontlines of combat against pro-government forces, eventually reaching an area about 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) from the capital Bangui.
UN and security sources disputed the group’s claim that he had been wounded on November 16 – before the rebel offensive – and instead dated it to the initial fighting in December, when his convoy was ambushed.
Rumours of his death had spread since, but were never confirmed by 3R.
The country’s military with the help of hundreds of Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries have led a counter-offensive since January, taking back most towns previously occupied by the rebels.
While the 3R has been pushed back, it remains a force in the northwest, aided by its knowledge of the terrain.