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BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Armed rebels on Sunday attacked a Chinese-run gold mining town and killed at least four people in Central African Republic, authorities said.

Maxime Balalu, a local government spokesperson, told The Associated Press that the Coalition of Patriots for Change, an alliance of rebel groups aligned with former President Francois Bozize, had carried out the attack in Gaga, a village roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the capital, Bangui.

He said the death toll might rise and included several individuals who worked at the nearby mine. Several others were injured in the attack, Balalu said.

Central African Republic has been in conflict since 2013, when predominantly Muslim rebels seized power and forced the President Francois Bozize from office. Mostly Christian militias fought back.

A 2019 peace deal only lessened the fighting, and six of the 14 armed groups that signed later left the agreement. The Coalition of Patriots for Change was founded in 2020 in the aftermath of the agreement.

The country remains one of the poorest in the world despite its vast mineral wealth of gold and diamonds among others. Rebel groups have operated with impunity across the embattled country over the past decade, thwarting mining exploration by foreign companies.

Many of those now operating in the country are Chinese-run and have faced security challenges. Last year, nine Chinese nationals were killed at another gold mine in Central African Republic during an attack that the government blamed on the same rebel alliance. In 2020, two Chinese nationals died when local residents led an uprising against a Chinese-operated mine in Sosso Nakombo.

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