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Africa

Six Chadian peacekeepers killed in CAR violence

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-26

Six Chadian peacekeepers were killed and 15 other wounded Wednesday after they were ambushed in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, a spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic said on Thursday.

"Yesterday the city was in total chaos and this chaos lasted until the end of the night, today we are trying to understand what happened," the spokesman told AFP.

The Chadian contingent of the African Union peacekeeping force has been accused of siding with a mostly Muslim former rebel group in the strife-torn majority Christian country. The Chadian contingent, which is made up of Arabic-speaking Muslim soldiers, has been accused of taking sides in the country's inter-religious conflict.

They are seen as being anti-Christian and of having sided with the Muslim rebels who grabbed power in a March coup, ousting then president François Bozizé.

The attack further underscores the messy nature of the conflict in the Central African Republic, where both French and AU forces have come under attack.

French tanks reinforce Bangui’s airport

On Wednesday, heavy fire in Bangui prompted French forces to deploy tanks near the airport, where tens of thousands of the capital’s residents have sought refuge from the deadly inter-religious violence engulfing the country.

The tanks took up positions at the entrance to the airport, where French and African peacekeeping forces are based, after automatic weapons fire and explosions shook several parts of the city. Hundreds of panicked residents could be seen fleeing the PK12 area on foot towards central Bangui.

Bangui’s streets were virtually deserted on Wednesday as sporadic gunfire erupted throughout the day.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter on the airport's grounds since inter-religious violence hit new heights in the former French colony earlier this month. The UN refugee agency says the unrest has already displaced more than 200,000 people in the capital.

More bodies arrived at a local hospital as gunfire was heard outside, prompting aid workers to flee and leaving no one to guard the premises, FRANCE 24 correspondents Romeo Langlois and Nicolas Germain reported from Bangui.

“There are clashes, we are not safe here, we are abandoned, we are sick – some have lost a leg or a hand. But if militias arrive here, how are we going to escape?” asked one anxious patient.

Inter-religious violence

The country has descended into chaos since mainly Muslim rebels ousted president François Bozizé in a March coup, leading to outbreaks of violence with militias from the country’s Christian majority. The leader of the now-disbanded Seleka rebel alliance, Michel Djotodia, serves as interim president, the country’s first Muslim leader.

Although Djotodia officially disbanded his Seleka rebels after seizing power, some of its members went rogue, leading to months of killing, rape and pillaging – prompting some Christians to form vigilante groups.

Amnesty International says some 1,000 people were killed in just a couple of days in early December, mostly by Muslim ex-rebels but also in reprisal attacks by Christians.

Chad is France's main partner in the military operation to reestablish security in the Central African Republic, contributing 850 troops to the 3,700-strong MISCA force. France has deployed some 1,600 troops to the country since the beginning of December.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

Date created : 2013-12-26

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