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GAROUA-BOULAÏ, Cameroon—Kolimba* and Bissafi* were with about a dozen of their colleagues from the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA), the armed forces of the Central African Republic (CAR), at a military base in the northeastern town of Béloko when armed men attacked around 5 a.m. on Jan. 21.
The attackers, from the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC)—a fusion of major rebel groups in CAR—destroyed dozens of vehicles, burned fuel stocks and razed a nearby customs office, which is on the border with Cameroon. Two mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group deployed to CAR and at least two other civilians were killed in the incident. The local soldiers, including Kolimba and Bissafi, were lucky to escape death, simply because they hid themselves rather than take on the militants.
“If we [FACA] decided to engage them in a gun battle, we would have been dead because they were more in number and better armed than us,” Kolimba told The Daily Beast. “The Russians who decided to take on the rebels were killed.”