Protesters deliver the dead to UN mission in Central African Republic
Bangui — Hundreds of angry demonstrators laid the bodies of at least 16 people killed in clashes in the Central African Republic capital in front of the UN mission headquarters on Wednesday, witnesses said.
Since Sunday, UN peacekeepers and local security forces have battled armed groups in Bangui’s PK5 area, a Muslim enclave of the majority Christian city, in a bid to dismantle their bases there.
One peacekeeper was killed and eight others were wounded in fighting on Tuesday.
The surge in violence coincides with a visit to the country by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations.
The demonstrators, who blame UN soldiers for firing on residents protesting against the operation in PK5, carried the bodies wrapped in cloth to the gates of the mission.
"Does their mission consist of shooting at civilians?" said one demonstrator, who gave his name only as Youssouf.
Atahirou Balla Dodo, the mayor of the Bangui district in which PK5 is located, said 21 people were killed. Seventeen bodies were brought to the mission, while the bodies of two women and two children remained at a mosque.
The bodies were removed by the local Red Cross.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which operates one of the main hospitals in Bangui, said it had treated more than 40 people for gunshot wounds on Tuesday.
Mission officials were not immediately available on Wednesday to comment on the accusations that peacekeepers were responsible for the deaths.
Violence increased in Central African Republic after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted president Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking retaliation killings by "antibalaka" armed groups, drawn largely from Christian communities.
Self-styled Muslim self-defence groups sprang up in PK5, claiming to protect Muslim civilians against efforts to drive them out.