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Civilians killed as CAR peacekeepers clash with militias

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-19

At least eight people, including six civilians, have been killed in a firefight between African-led UN peacekeepers and fighters from the mainly Christian "anti-balaka" vigilante militias, a police source said Tuesday.

Troops of the MISCA force (African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic) clashed Sunday with anti-balaka militias at Cantonnier, near the border with Cameroon, a gendarmerie source in the western town of Bouar told AFP.

"The provisional toll is eight dead – two anti-balaka and six civilians," the source said.

A MISCA source confirmed that an incident took place near the frontier pitting African troops against the anti-balaka ("anti-machete") fighters in "circumstances that are not yet clearly known".

"No MISCA soldier was hit during this incident," the source added.

The clash occurred at a checkpoint erected by the anti-balaka when a MISCA patrol refused to comply with the demands of the militiamen, the gendarmerie source said.

Rockets and grenade explosions rocked the capital again on Wednesday as peacekeepers clashed with militias near the city's airport.

Heavy artillery fire could be heard in the morning near the airport in Bangui, where French and African forces have set up bases.

'We need more men'

Reports of the latest violence came a day after Chad's President Idriss Deby called on the UN to commit more troops to ending the crisis in the strife-torn country.

Speaking at a press conference after talks with Central Africa Republic's interim President Catherine Samba Panza in Ndjamena, Chad's capital, on Tuesday, Deby warned that France and the African Union "cannot carry out their mission properly whatever their determination" as they did not have enough troops.

"We need more men, more means," said Deby, adding that only the UN could provide troops in large numbers.

Deby also urged the Central African government to negotiate with the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance that temporarily seized power last year.

The country descended into chaos after the Seleka rebels deposed president François Bozizé in a March coup. The group was officially disbanded after seizing power, but some of its former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting, prompting some Christian communities to form vigilante militias.

Transitional President Catherine Samba Panza has vowed to "go to war" on the anti-balaka, who are seeking vengeance for atrocities committed by the Seleka.

With the intervention of French and African troops, the security situation is gradually improving in the southern capital Bangui but the unrest has continued unabated in other parts of the country.

France announced last week that it would boost its troop force to 2,000 from the 1,600-strong force already in the country. The EU said it would commit 1,000 troops.

Former Seleka rebels are blamed by local residents for killing at least 22 people in the western town of Bang since last Thursday, according to Florent Geel, the Africa director of the International Federation for Human Rights, who was visiting Bangui.

"The assailants looted administrative buildings and places of worship," Geel said.

However, other local sources said that the violence was carried out by men following Abdel Kader Baba Ladde, a Chadian former rebel leader who has been on the run since 2012. His fighters fell back into western CAR and some were said to have joined the Seleka.

"On Sunday morning, we heard shots in several parts of Bang. Baba Ladde's men started firing in the air, putting people to flight," local farmer Martin Himi Dana told AFP by telephone.

"On the ground, we counted two people dead. They detained seven other people and forced them to leave with them. The bodies of these seven people were found yesterday with bullet wounds a few kilometres (miles) from Bang," Dana added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



Date created : 2014-02-18


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