June 22, 2010 / 6:29 PM / 10 years ago

Central African Republic chasing ivory-laden donkeys

BANGUI (Reuters) - Authorities in Central African Republic are chasing heavily armed ivory smugglers who have threatened villagers as their caravan of donkeys carries tusks northwards, officials said Tuesday.

The gang entered Dekoa, a town around 60 km (40 miles) from Mala in the centre of the landlocked country, early Tuesday.

“This armed gang and more than a hundred donkeys loaded with elephants’ tusks arrived in Dekoa and fired several shots, which scattered the population,” said regional governor Dieudonne Badawapi.

“The decision has been taken to intercept this gang,” said a security official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This is the first time a gang as numerous, and carrying as many tusks, as this one, is crossing the country,” said Joseph Bolbo, chief of forest and water management.

The trade in ivory has been banned for years, but poached material can command large sums on the black market.

Central African Republic, one of the continent’s most politically and economically isolated countries, is already fighting several armed rebel groups and incursions into its territory by Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army insurgents.

Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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