UN probes deadly shooting of peacekeepers in C. Africa

MINUSCA. A Moroccan peacekeeper serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic escorts a UN delegation in Bambari, 400 km northeast of Bangui, June 20 2014.File photo by Catianne Tijerina/UN UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina

MINUSCA. A Moroccan peacekeeper serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic escorts a UN delegation in Bambari, 400 km northeast of Bangui, June 20 2014.

File photo by Catianne Tijerina/UN UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina

BANGUL, Central African Republic – The United Nations said Sunday, August 9, it is investigating a shooting rampage that left 5 Rwandan peacekeepers dead in the Central African Republic, in what Kigali said appeared to be a terrorist act.

The UN mission here, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, issued a statement describing the shooting Saturday, August 8, at the Rwandan contingent's base in the capital Bangui as an "unprecedented incident since the start of the (CAR) mission in 2014."

"MINUSCA has opened an investigation to determine the circumstances and the motive" of the shooting, it said.

In the rampage, one of the peacekeepers opened fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 4 of them and injuring 8 before he himself was killed.

In Kigali, the Rwandan defense ministry pointed to terrorism as the possible motive for the rampage.

"Investigations so far point toward terrorism to be the motive behind this deplorable act, as evidence so far reveals," said spokesman Brigadier General Joseph Nzabamwita without elaborating.

The defense ministry statement also hailed the Rwandan soldiers for having "engaged the assailant soldier, killing him and saving the lives of other RDF (Rwandan army) peacekeepers." 

It added that the 8 other soldiers injured in the shooting were being treated in hospital and were not in critical condition.

The deadly shooting was the worst such incident to hit the UN peacekeeping mission in the poor former French colony since it was deployed in September 2014 following inter-religious clashes that claimed thousands of lives.

The unrest was spurred by a 2013 coup that ousted president Francois Bozize and then pushed the country into a conflict that took on a religious dimension, pitting sections of Christian and Muslim populations against one another.

Largely Christian "anti-balaka"  or anti-machete  militias were formed to avenge atrocities by the Seleka rebels who were behind the coup, resulting in waves of killing, rape and pillaging.

The Central African Republic is set to hold elections in October, but the polls have already been pushed back 3 times as the country grapples with its worst crisis since independence in 1960.

The MINUSCA force comprises 10,800 troops drawn from Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, Morocco, Senegal, Pakistan and Indonesia. – Rappler.com