Saturday, December 07, 2013

Central African Republic

Central African Republic: Death Toll from Clashes Increases to 300
The Telegraph, December 6, 2013
"Christian civilians have fled by the thousands to the capital's airport guarded by French forces as the mostly Muslim armed fighters who have ruled the Central African Republic since March hunted door-to-door for their enemies and the death toll from inter-communal violence increased to 300 people. Bodies lay decomposing along the roads in Bangui, where it is too dangerous for many to collect the corpses. Thursday's clashes marked the worst unrest in Bangui in nine months and raised fears that waves of retaliatory attacks could soon follow. 'They are slaughtering us like chickens,' said Appolinaire Donoboy, a Christian whose family remained in hiding. France had pledged to increase its presence in its former colony well before Christian militias attacked the capital at dawn Thursday. The arrival of additional French troops and equipment came as the capital teetered on the brink of total anarchy and represented the greatest hope for many Central Africans. About 1,000 French forces were expected to be on the ground by Friday evening, a French defence official said. As night fell across the near anarchic capital, Christians fearing retaliatory attacks by the mostly Muslim ex-rebels crowded as close to the runway as possible, laying out their woven mats in front of a barbed wire coiled fence. National radio announced that at least 280 people had died, citing figures from local Red Cross officials, but other reports put the death toll at 300.
The US State Department said it was 'deeply concerned' by the violence and praised France's quick intervention. France signaled its amped up presence in its former colony on Friday by sending out armored vehicles to patrol the streets. A French fighter jet made several flyovers, roaring through the sky over an otherwise lifeless capital as civilians cowered at home. Britain also flew in a C-17 plane Friday loaded with equipment to help with France's intervention. As many as 250 French troops are carrying out permanent patrols in Bangui, and 'we didn't notice any direct clashes between armed groups today,' said French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron in Paris. On Thursday, however, 10 armed attackers in a pickup truck fired on a French position at the airport, including with a rocket-propelled grenade whose charge did not detonate. French forces returned fire, killing four attackers and wounding six, Mr. Jaron said. A planned vote on a UN Security Council resolution Thursday allowed France to proceed with its mission. It coincided with the worst violence to roil the capital since March when the mostly Muslim rebels known as Seleka overthrew the president of a decade. On Thursday, Christian militias believed to be loyal to ousted leader Francois Bozize attacked the city, and hours of gunbattles ensued. The conflict in one of Africa's poorest countries has gathered little sustained international attention since the government overthrow in March, and the dramatic developments were overshadowed Friday by global mourning for South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, who died at the age of 95. 'Thanks to France and the United Nations who want to save the Central Africans, soon the Seleka attacks on civilians will stop. We have had enough of Seleka killing, raping and stealing,' said Abel Nguerefara, who lives on the outskirts of Bangui."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

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