BANGUI — Six Chadian peacekeepers were killed by militia in the capital of Central African Republic during hours of sporadic fighting on Wednesday, a spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA) said.
The Chadians were attacked by “anti-balaka” militia in the Gabongo neighborhood of Bangui, near the airport, MISCA spokesman Eloi Yao told Reuters.
Five of them were killed immediately on Wednesday during fighting in Bangui which displaced hundreds of people. The violence eased on Thursday as French peacekeepers took up positions on main roads near the airport and in troubled neighborhoods, though sporadic shooting was reported.
“The number of Chadian soldiers killed has risen to six because one of them died from his wounds this morning,” Yao said.
A Reuters reporter saw three civilian bodies on the streets of one northern neighborhood following Wednesday's fighting.
The anti-balaka, a largely Christian self-defense militia whose name means “anti-machete,” has taken up arms against the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who seized power in March and unleashed a wave of looting, rape and massacres.
France deployed a 1,600-strong peacekeeping mission in its former colony in early December. Sporadic violence has continued despite the presence of the French and a nearly 4,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission, and several peacekeepers have been killed.
The anti-balaka accuse Chadian forces of supporting the Seleka rebels, something Chad strongly denies.
MISCA's commanding officer, Cameroon's Martin Tumenta Chomu, said on Tuesday the Chadian troops would be moved outside the capital to northern Central African Republic
Colonel Gilles Jaron, spokesman for the French military, said tensions remained high in Bangui, following an increase in violence during the last week.
He said France, which was protecting the airport and neighborhoods with its own citizens, was now also focusing on returning peace to flashpoints in the city, such as the Gabongo and Bacongo neighborhoods.
France's force, codenamed Sangaris, has between 1,000 and 1,200 men stationed in Bangui, with the rest deployed in the interior of the country, he said.
“The Sangaris force has not been the target of coordinated attacks. We are the target of sporadic shooting which we respond to each time,” he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is drafting plans for a possible U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic.