UN - Chad troops in unprovoked CAR killings

2014-04-04 20:58
Chadian troops, part of an African Union peacekeeping force, drive down a road in Bangui, Central African Republic. (Rebecca Blackwell, AP)

Chadian troops, part of an African Union peacekeeping force, drive down a road in Bangui, Central African Republic. (Rebecca Blackwell, AP)

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Geneva - The UN on Friday accused Chadian soldiers of carrying out an unprovoked attack when they opened fire in a crowded market in Central African capital Bangui, a day after Chad said it was withdrawing its peacekeepers from the strife-torn state.

An investigation into the Saturday attack which left at least 30 dead and another 300 wounded found that the troops had "opened fire on the population without any provocation," said a spokesperson for the UN's human rights office.

"As panic-stricken people fled in all directions, the soldiers allegedly continued firing indiscriminately," the spokesperson, Rupert Colville, added.

"According to our preliminary findings, at least 30 people were killed as a result of the shooting and over 300 were seriously injured, including children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and the elderly, as these were the people least able to run for their lives."

The attack only ended when Congolese peacekeepers arrived, said Colville.

The UN's damning findings were released a day after Chad angrily said it was withdrawing its soldiers from the 6 000-strong Misca African peacekeeping force deployed in the country, because of "a wanton and malicious campaign" against its troops.

Chadian soldiers have been accused of siding with the mainly Muslim Seleka movement - which seized power through a coup in March 2013 and held it until January this year - and of condoning the abuses carried out by some of them against the population.

N'Djamena has always denied the charges.

On Friday, Bangui expressed regret at the decision made by Chad, one of the largest contributors to Misca with about 850 soldiers on the ground.

"We learnt with a lot of regret of the announcement... of the withdrawal of Chadian troops from the Misca in the Central African Republic," said Foreign Minister Toussaint Kongo-Doudou said in a statement sent to AFP.

Specially deployed

Colville said the soldiers responsible for the Saturday attack did not appear to be the peacekeepers deployed with Misca.

Instead, they are believed to have been dispatched specially from Chad to bring to safety Chadian citizens and other Muslim inhabitants who have faced repeated attacks by Christian militia known as "anti-balaka".

The militias were formed last year in response to the coup by the Seleka rebels that toppled president Francois Bozize.

A vicious cycle of attacks and counter-attacks by the Seleka and anti-balaka has sunk the impoverished country into chaos, with thousands killed and about a quarter of the country's 4.6 million people driven from their homes.

Misca, along with 2 000 troops from former colonial power France, have been struggling to restore order.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday strongly condemned the drawn-out conflict, saying he is "deeply troubled by the appalling atrocities against the civilians there."

UN investigators in Bangui had gathered evidence from survivors of the weekend attack who were being treated in two medical centres in Bangui, as well as at the market in the city's PK12 district, where Muslims have been penned in by militia attacks.

Colville said the soldiers appeared to have returned to Chad after the attack in Bangui, which lies around 450km from the Chadian border.

Read more on:    misca  |  chad  |  central african republic  |  central africa
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