Aid workers killed in Central African Republic

(Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch)

Three Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid workers were among 22 killed in the latest attack in the Central African Republic on 26 April.

The CAR has been beset by violence between Islamist extremist group Séléka and its opponent faction anti-Balaka for over a year now. Sectarian violence between the two groups has spread throughout the nation, displacing a staggering 980,000 civilians while a quarter of a million have fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Congo. Around 1.3 million people are estimated to be in desperate need of basic necessities such as food, water and sanitation and thousands of civilians have been killed.

The UN Security Council has authorised the deployment of 12,000 troops as violence across the fractured nation continues to increase and fears of a sectarian genocide mount, although it will be some time before these additional forces arrive on the ground.

On Saturday afternoon, Séléka members undertook an armed robbery at an MSF hospital in the town of Nanga Boguila, which is around 280 miles north of capital Bangui.

Fifteen local chiefs were shot and killed, as well as three aid workers who practised at the clinic. Several more were murdered as Séléka forces entered the town and countless were critically wounded.

In a statement released following the incident, MSF has said it "strongly condemns the unprovoked killing of unarmed civilians" and has called upon "all parties to the conflict to respect the neutrality of health care staff, facilities and activities".

"We are extremely shocked and saddened by the brutal violence used against our medical staff and the community," added MSF Head of Mission in the CAR Stefano Argenziano, who also noted that staff have since been withdrawn from the hospital.

"Our first priority is to treat the wounded, notify family members and to secure the safety of our staff, patients and hospital...While we remain committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the community, we also have to take into account the safety of our staff."

International health NGO MSF has been working in the CAR since 1997, and has managed the hospital in Nanga Bogulia for the past eight years. It is the only international humanitarian organisation providing assistance in that particular region, and its withdrawal will have a significant impact on a local community already suffering extreme violence and fear of further attacks.

In an article for the BBC, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently warned that the international community must act urgently to prevent atrocities of the past from repeating themselves in the CAR.

"Will national leaders heed the lessons of the past and prevent another Rwanda in our time?" he asked.

"Atrocity crimes continue. The justice system has crumbled. Ethno-religious cleansing is a reality. Whole communities have been dismantled."

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