UN condemns attack on Egyptian blue helmets in Central African Republic

Presidential guardsmen opened fire on unarmed peacekeepers, wounding 10 of them

The UN on Tuesday condemned a “deliberate and unjustifiable” attack by members of the Central African Republic’s presidential guard on unarmed Egyptian peacekeepers that wounded 10 of them and killed a bystander.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the world body “strongly condemns” the attack, in which CAR guardsmen opened fire on an Egyptian police unit that had arrived in the capital Bangui earlier on Monday.

“They were on their way to their base when they suffered heavy fire from members of the presidential guard,” Mr Haq told reporters in New York.

“The police officers were fired at without any warning or response. They were unarmed.”

One woman was struck and killed by a UN vehicle as the unit fled the attack, which occurred near the presidential residence in the city of about 900,000 people.

Mr Haq spoke of the “opening of the necessary investigations” and of the need to “ensure accountability”.

Albert Yaloke Mokpeme, a spokesman for President Faustin-Archange Touadera, told Reuters that the UN claims had “nothing to do with reality”, but the leader's office has yet to provide details about the incident.

The attack was the latest in a series of incidents that have strained ties between the CAR government and the UN mission, known as Minusca, which has accused security forces of repeatedly violating the two sides' operational agreement.

A UN report last month described 41 breaches of the deal over a four-month period, including the obstruction of blue helmet patrols as well as detentions of UN personnel and searches of their homes.

Evan Cinq-Mars, a Canadian diplomat to the UN, said blue helmets were “regularly targeted” in CAR but that this latest attack was “particularly shocking".

UN investigators last month urged the CAR government to sever ties with Russia's Wagner group, saying the private security force had violently harassed and intimidated civilians there.

The UN Security Council will discuss the mission on Wednesday.

Minusca employs more than 15,000 people in the resource-rich former French colony, including many from Rwanda, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Egypt.

CAR has been wracked by violence since the Seleka rebel coalition seized power in March 2013. The CAR army, backed by UN peacekeepers as well as Russian and Rwandan forces, have been battling the rebels in recent months.

Updated: November 2nd 2021, 8:05 PM