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Foreigners fleeing Bangui tell of looting horror

Video by Sarah Sakho

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-29

Expatriates fleeing the Central African Republic on Thursday described scenes of terror during last weekend’s coup d’état, when armed looters entered their homes and hotel rooms and forced them to hand over car keys and money.

Scores of foreigners trying to flee the Central African Republic capital of Bangui piled into the country’s only international airport on Thursday in the hope of securing a seat on the first commercial flight to leave after Sunday’s coup d’état.

Desperate tourists and expatriates were forced to queue for tickets distributed by the French army, which is manning the terminal. One French woman hoping to secure a place on a flight expressed her frustration at being unable to return home with her sick daughter. “If I don’t get on a plane I’m going to be furious,” she said.

Many of those trying to flee said they had suffered terrifying ordeals after the weekend coup, which was followed by rampant looting. Armed gunmen pillaged houses, hotels, businesses, UN offices, and even hospitals. Some foreigners hid in French army bases.

One French tourist who spoke to FRANCE 24 described “a nightmare” after looters entered the hotel she was staying in and demanded the keys to her car. “They made us believe they would come back to pay us,” she said. “We waited all day, but they never came back.”

A Belgian tourist arriving at the airport said that he was forced to hide after looters stole his hire car. “At least I still have my suitcase,” he said.

City on hold

A Bangui resident fleeing to France told FRANCE 24 that the looters who entered her home were armed Seleka rebels. “If the situation with the Seleka rebels continues, I don't think I will come back,” she said.

Leaders of the rebel alliance, which staged the coup, deny reports of looting by their forces, blaming the violence on bandits and pledging to seek them out.

But many residents of the capital remain fearful of returning to work. Hospitals struggling to treat the hundreds wounded in the violence say they are missing doctors who have not turned up to work.

Many nationals have also fled the country, with some 5,000 thought to have crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo, just south of the capital.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia, who has declared himself president, has called on residents to return home and to work.

 

Date created : 2013-03-29

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