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THE United Nations has dismissed accusations that its soldiers killed unarmed civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) as “propaganda” after protesters placed dead bodies outside its headquarters.
In a demonstration yesterday calling for an end to escalating violence, a group dumped 17 corpses outside the UN building in the capital Bangui, saying they were civilians killed by the world body’s forces.
However, the UN said the remains were of armed criminals who had attacked its peacekeepers and government soldiers.
UN spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said: “They shot at our peacekeepers and we returned fire. The bodies resulted from the clashes.
“We condemn the fact that some people are using dead bodies for a kind of propaganda.”
The mineral-rich CAR, which won independence from France in 1960, is one of Africa’s most politically unstable countries.
It has seen a series of civil wars and the majority-Christian country was plunged into further turmoil in 2013 when Islamist terror group Seleka seized control in a coup. This triggered yet another bloody conflict as Christian militia known as the anti-balaka rose up to fight the Seleka.
Villages were rased to the ground in violent clashes that saw beheadings and public executions and triggered allegations of genocide. Children as young as eight were press-ganged into joining the Muslim and Christian forces as the fighting escalated.
Forces of the UN mission in the CAR, known as Minusca, began a operation to disarm militants in the PK5 district of Bangui on Sunday. They claim to have targeted criminal gangs and insurgents before coming under fire.
A UN statement released on Tuesday said: “For four hours, the Minusca force had to push back heavily armed elements of criminal gangs who deliberately opened fire on the international forces, who fired back.”
However, one of the demonstrators alleged that UN forces opened fire on civilians during Tuesday’s operation.
“We ourselves no longer understand anything. Does their mission consist of shooting at civilians?” he told the Reuters news agency.
PK5 Mayor Atahirou Balla Dodo said 21 people had been killed in the UN operation, after which protesters took 17 of the bodies from the morgue, leaving those of two women and two children.
Mr Monteiro said the UN forces would continue their operation despite the protests.
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