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UN chief 'outraged' by latest attacks in CAR, warns they could be war crimes

Strongly condemning the latest attacks against civilians and the United Nations in Central African Republic (CAR), Secretary-General António Guterres today urged authorities to investigate and bring those responsible to justice.

“The Secretary-General is outraged by the attacks perpetrated by suspected anti-Balaka against civilians and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA),” his spokesperson said in a statement.

He added that the Secretary-General reiterated that attacks against UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.

Armed assailants attacked civilian populations overnight on 12 and 13 May, targeting in particular Muslims, in the Tokoyo neighborhood of Bangassou, in south-eastern CAR, according to MINUSCA. Preliminary information reported that displaced civilians sought refuge at a mosque, a Catholic church and a hospital.

“These attacks led to significant population displacement, an undetermined number of civilian casualties and the death of one Moroccan peacekeeper, bringing to six the number of peacekeepers killed in the Central African Republic this week,” the spokesperson said, noting that Mr. Guterres offered his condolences to the family of the bereaved peacekeeper and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco.

In today's statement, the Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN's support for MINUSCA, which is in CAR to protect civilians and stabilize the country, and extended his appreciation to the Governments whose troops and police contribute to MINUSCA peacekeeping.

CAR is emerging from civil conflict which began in 2013, with clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.

“These recent incidents amply demonstrate that the situation in the Central African Republic is still fragile hence the need for continued and sustained regional and international support to overcome the challenges at hand,” the Secretary-General's spokesperson said.

The attack came just hours after the UN held a memorial ceremony to honour five peacekeepers killed on 8 May in a nearby village of Yogofongo. People connected with the anti-Balaka group are also suspected in the attack. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and other senior UN officials, took part in the ceremony.