Thomson Reuters Foundation

Inform - Connect - Empower

Man killed as French troops clash with crowds in C.African Republic

Source: Reuters - Thu, 22 May 2014 19:14 GMT
Author: Reuters
hum-war
A boy gestures in front of a barricade on fire during a protest after French troops opened fire at protesters blocking a road in Bambari May 22, 2014. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Tweet Recommend Google + LinkedIn Email Print
Leave us a comment

By Daniel Flynn

BAMBARI, Central African Republic, May 22 (Reuters) - At least one man was killed on Thursday in clashes that erupted after French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic tried to disarm Muslim rebels, witnesses and hospital staff said.

A spokesman for the rebels told Reuters the troops opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing three civilians and wounding at least six. It was not possible to independently verify his claim.

A French military official denied troops killed civilians and said they fired warning shots in the air after coming under fire in Bambari, the headquarters of the mostly-Muslim rebel Seleka coalition, which controls the northeast of the country.

A Reuters witness saw four people wounded, including one seriously hurt by gunshots that appeared to come from French forces deployed in the "Sangaris" peacekeeping operation.

Following a meeting on Wednesday, the peacekeeping troops had demanded that members of the Seleka hand over weapons.

Crowds of civilians carrying machetes and hunting rifles took to the streets early on Thursday in protest and blocked roads in the centre of Bambari with market stalls and furniture.

Mahamat Nour Hassan Ibrahim, 31, said a French soldier on an armoured vehicle opened fire on the crowd.

Ibrahim said he was shot in his left leg and his 21-year-old brother Mohamed Hassan Ibrahim shot dead. Hospital staff said one body was brought to the hospital after the protest.

"We only want peace. Since the Sangaris arrived in the town, we have been traumatized," Ibrahim said from his hospital bed. "We do not need the Sangaris here."

Muslims in Bambari are unwilling to disarm after similar moves in the capital Bangui led to attacks on Muslims there.

"There were two deaths and a third person who was seriously wounded has now died," said Seleka spokesman Ahmad Nijad Ibrahim. "Christians and Muslims were living peacefully here. It is the French who have created this violence."

French forces shut off the main road leading southwest from Bambari to Bangui as a precautionary measure.

"International forces are in Bambari to apply confidence-building measures which forbid armed groups from circulating with their weapons in the town," said a French military official who declined to be named.

The town was still tense at nightfall and occasional gunshots could be heard. Fires burned at barricades and people walked around armed with bows and arrows and machetes.

The former French colony descended into chaos after Seleka rebels seized power in March last year and their attacks on the majority Christian population set off a wave of revenge attacks.

The coalition was forced to relinquish power under international pressure in January. Since then, Christian militias known as "anti-balaka" have mounted widespread attacks on Muslims.

More than 2,000 people have been killed in the violence and a million of the country's 4.5 million people have been forced from their homes despite the presence of several thousand African peacekeepers and European Union and French troops. (Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Andrew Roche)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more information see our Acceptable Use Policy.

comments powered by Disqus
Related Spotlights
Most Popular
TOPICAL CONTENT
Topical content
LATEST SLIDESHOW

Latest slideshow

See allSee all
FEATURED JOBS
Featured jobs