April 9, 2018 / 1:18 PM / 17 days ago

Gunmen fire on U.N. base in Central African Republic

BANGUI (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a United Nations base in Central African Republic’s capital late on Sunday, capping a day that saw at least one civilian killed and dozens of people injured, a U.N. spokesman said.

The gunmen fired on a part of the base that houses Egyptian and Jordanian peacekeepers at 11 p.m. (2200 GMT) sparking a 30-minute gunfight in which no one was killed or injured, U.N. spokesman Vladimir Monteiro told Reuters.

“We returned fire and sent reinforcements, and calm returned after half an hour,” Monteiro said.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for Sunday night’s attack.

Thousands have died in the country since Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian “anti-balaka” militia. Violence spiked when former colonial power France ended its peacekeeping mission in 2016.

Since then, a United Nations Central African Republic mission known as MINUSCA has struggled to restore order to a country where government control barely extends beyond Bangui.

On Sunday, dozens of U.N. peacekeepers, civilians and militia fighters were injured as peacekeepers and domestic security forces moved in to dismantle militia bases in the Muslim PK5 neighbourhood of majority-Christian Bangui.

MINUSCA said PK5 residents had called on it to stamp out armed groups responsible for extortion and attacks on civilians.

It raided the bases of several PK5 groups, made arrests and seized weapons, ammunition and drugs, it said.

The raids are not universally popular. On Monday, a few dozen people peacefully demonstrated outside the U.N. headquarters in Bangui calling for the U.N. to pull out of PK5, a Reuters witness said.

After Bozize was ousted in 2013 and anti-balaka groups carried out revenge killings, Muslim self-defence groups sprang up in PK5, claiming to protect the Muslim civilians concentrated there against ethnic violence.

Reporting By Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Aaron Ross and Hugh Lawson

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