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'No sign of torture' on slain Russian journalists

August 2, 2018

Moscow says there's no evidence to suggest three Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic this week were tortured. The reporters had been investigating a story about Russian mercenaries.

A Central African Republic soldier holding a gun
Image: Reuters/B. Ratner

An examination of the bodies of three Russian journalists who were slain in the Central African Republic (CAR) suggests they weren't tortured by their killers, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

"According to information given to the Russian Embassy in CAR...local doctors found no sign of torture, only gunshot wounds," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.  

Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal were ambushed and killed outside the town of Sibut, north of the capital, Bangui, late Monday.

The trio had been in the volatile country reporting on a Russian private military contractor.

Probe launched

CAR authorities said the group was attacked at a roadblock by nine men wearing "headscarves." The gunmen were speaking Arabic rather than the country's two official languages, French and Sango, officials added.

CAR's government, the UN peacekeeping mission, and Russian federal authorities have opened an investigation into the killings. Russia's Investigative Committee also said it was considering sending a group of its specialists to CAR.

Read moreUN warns of genocide in Central African Republic

Targeted hit?

The journalists' editor said the murders could be linked to their investigative work, which focused on the activities of the so-called Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor that allegedly sends mercenaries to conflict zones like Syria.

CAR government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui said it was also "very plausible" that the group had been killed by "an armed group," after taking risks that were "badly underestimated."

Read moreRussia builds military ties with Africa

The streets of Bangui
Rival militias control much of the territory outside CAR's capital, BanguiImage: Reuters/S. Modola

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the possibility that the group had been victims of a "targeted hit" should not be ignored.

"We know there is a strong Russian presence in Central Africa and to what extent this investigation on Russian mercenaries... could have been causing problems, it's a question which can be asked," said Arnaud Froger, an RSF member in charge of Africa.

Read moreBangui hit by violence, pastor killed

Fleeing violence in Central African Republic

CAR was plunged into violence after longtime leader Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance. Current President Faustin-Archange Touadera, whose government is supported by a UN force of 13,000 troops, controls little of the country beyond the capital. Much of CAR's territory is held by rival militias, who clash frequently over natural resources and revenue.

nm/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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