Bangui - A local Red Cross worker was shot dead and at least 31 people were injured in fighting between militia and international peacekeepers in the capital of Central African Republic on Wednesday, emergency services said.
The clashes erupted after residents of the PK-5 neighbourhood accused the European Union force (EUFOR) of shooting dead a man late on Tuesday. The district is home to 2 000 Muslims who have braved sectarian violence to remain in Bangui but are resisting pressure to disarm.
EUFOR said in a statement one of its patrols had opened fire after it was attacked in the PK-5 district. It did not confirm whether anyone was killed in the incident, however.
A crowd of protesters brought a man's body to UN headquarters on Wednesday, saying he had been shot dead by EUFOR in his home. They then took him for burial.
Shortly afterwards, heavy gunfire and shelling was heard around PK-5, residents. Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said its team in the General Hospital had received 31 people injured from gunshot wounds.
“Ten critically wounded patients will receive surgery,” MSF deputy head of mission, Claude Cafardy, said in a statement.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement said one of its volunteers, Bienvenu Bandios, was shot dead while evacuating casualties from PK-5. “We are greatly dismayed by this tragic loss of life,” Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Central African Red Cross, said in a statement.
Bangui residents said a helicopter from the France's separate Sangaris peacekeeping mission flew over PK-5 on Wednesday as gunfire sounded. It was not clear who was firing.
Arun Gaye, a trader in PK-5, said by telephone the helicopter had opened fire on people on the ground, but a Sangaris official denied this.
The former French colony has been gripped by violence since Seleka, a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels and some fighters from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, seized power in March 2013.
Seleka's rule was marked by abuses that prompted a backlash from the 'anti-balaka' Christian militia. Cycles of tit-for-tat violence continued despite Seleka leader Michel Djotodia's resignation from the presidency in January.
Some 2 000 French and 6 000 Africa Union peacekeepers have been deployed but they have struggled to help a weak transitional government stamp its authority on the mineral-rich country. A 12 000-strong UN peacekeeping force is due to start deploying next month.
Most Muslims have fled the south of the country, creating a de facto partition. Some members of the Seleka leadership have pushed for this to be formalised.
The armed group rejected the nomination this month of a new Muslim prime minister, Mahamat Kamoun, a former head of cabinet to Djotodia, saying they were not consulted on his appointment.
The president of Central African Republic's transitional parliament, Alexandre Ferdinand N'Guedet, called on Tuesday for a delay in the formation of a new government, saying that there had not been enough consultation in Kamoun's appointment. - Reuters