Thousands flee gun battle as Chad withdraw from Central African Republic

Internally displaced people wait for food distribution by a foreign non-governmental organization in the town of Boda April 15, 2014

Thousands fled a gun battle between Chadian troops escorting a convoy of Muslim civilians and local militia in Central African Republic, Médecins Sans Frontières said on Tuesday, as Chad completed a withdrawal of soldiers from its violence-ravaged neighbour.

Central African Republic has descended into chaos since the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition seized power a year ago. Its abuses on the majority Christian population triggered waves of revenge attacks, leading to thousands of deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, including the majority of the country’s Muslims.

The Chadian troops were escorting the last 540 Muslim residents of the northwestern town of Bossangoa to Gore in Chad when militia attacked the convoy at night on April 11 as it passed through Boguila, around 310 miles north of the capital Bangui.

The Chadian soldiers fought back, and three wounded were later admitted to MSF facilities in Boguila and Paoua.

“We witnessed the majority of the population fleeing in panic to the bush,” Stefano Argenziano, MSF head of mission in the country, said in a statement on Tuesday, estimating that around 7,000 people were displaced in the clash.

“We are worried that the gun battle may have resulted in more people being injured. For the moment we cannot access the area to verify if this is the case and evacuate the wounded,” Argenziano said.

The United Nations said earlier this month it was trying to urgently evacuate 19,000 Muslims from Bangui and other parts of Central African Republic who are surrounded by anti-balaka Christian militia threatening their lives…

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