Three Senegalese soldiers have been killed and another wounded after their helicopter crashed in the Central African Republic .
The combat helicopter was returning from an operational mission with the United Nations peacekeeping force on Friday when it crashed in the western town of Bouar on Friday, according to the Senegalese armed forces.
Another soldier was “in critical condition”, the UN said in a statement.
The chopper went down during “an emergency landing due to bad weather”, it said, adding that the four crew members on board were part of the Sengalese peacekeeping contingent.
Mankeur Ndiaye, head of MINUSCA, expressed his condolences on Twitter, saying: “It is with immense sorrow that I have learned of the crash of a Senegalese combat helicopter as it was landing at Bouar, leading to three deaths and one injured.”
One of the UN’s biggest peacekeeping missions, MINUSCA has nearly 13,000 troops and police in the CAR in support of the elected president, Faustin-Archange Touadera.
CAR has suffered several violent crises since 2003 when former president Francois Bozize seized power in a coup. The country spiralled into bloodshed after Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by the Seleka alliance.
Since then, fighting has forced nearly a quarter of the country’s 4.5 million people to flee their homes.
On Thursday, MINUSCA carried out an attack on an armed group called 3R at Koui, in the northwest of the country, several officials in the UN force told AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Separately, the rebel group said late on Thursday that its bases had been bombarded by UN forces.
MINUSCA had called on 3R the day before to hand over those responsible for the killing of 46 civilians in the Paoua region in northern CAR in May. Only three individuals have so far been turned over to the authorities.
The 3R – from the French words for Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation – emerged in late 2015 purportedly to defend the Muslim Fulani, or Peul, people from Christian anti-Balaka armed group. It has been accused of killing scores of people.
It was among 14 armed groups that signed a peace deal with the government in February.
Under the deal, rebel chiefs were given government positions, and a confidence-building process was to begin whereby army troops and militiamen would carry out joint patrols.
But the accord has remained extremely fragile and breaches of it by the rebels occur almost daily.
The 3R’s leader Sidiki Abass, also known as Sidi Bi Soulemane, had been appointed military advisor to the government under the pact, but stepped down on September 4.