4 April 2014

Central African Republic: UN Accuses Chad Soldiers of Unprovoked CAR Attack

The UN has accused Chadian soldiers of carrying out an unprovoked attack in the Central African Republic's capital Bangui. On Thursday, Chad announced the withdrawal of its troops from the AU peacekeeping mission in CAR.

A UN investigation into the March 29 attack found the Chadian troops had "opened fire on the population without any provocation," a spokesman for the UN's human rights arm, Rupert Colville, said on Friday.

According to preliminary findings, at least 30 civilians were killed and 300 more were seriously injured during the attack at a market in the capital Bangui.

"Why they start shooting like this in the marketplace is not clear," Colville said. He also said the soldiers responsible for the attack, however, did not appear to be part of Chad's African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), contingent.

"There have been [non-MISCA] Chadian soldiers operating earlier as well as now in CAR. In many cases they've saved lives, they've evacuated both people of Chadian nationality and also other Muslims to Chad," Colville said.

The condemnation comes one day after Chad announced it was withdrawing its soldiers from the MISCA mission, citing a "gratuitous and malicious campaign" against its troops in the country.

Chadian soldiers have been at the heart of African efforts to stabilize CAR, contributing about 850 soldiers to the 6,000 strong MISCA mission. But its forces have been accused of siding with the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels in the conflict after several clashes with Christian militias in the capital Bangui.

MISCA forces, along with 2,000 troops from former colonial power France, have been struggling to restore order to the country since Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013, later sparking revenge attacks from Christian groups calling themselves "self-defense militias."

The bloodshed prompted a French and AU military intervention and, under international pressure, the rebels gave way in January to an interim civilian government. However, the government has been unable to stem the violence.

Roughly one million people having fled their homes due to the violence since late last year, according to UN estimates.

On Tuesday, the European Union officially launched its military mission in CAR, where 1,000 peacekeepers will join the international forces already on the ground.

hc/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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