CAR crisis: Chad rejects UN claims of market shooting

Chadian soldiers sit with guns on a vehicle as they drive in Bangui on 4 April 2014 Chadian soldiers are preparing to leave CAR over the dispute

Chad has rejected UN accusations that its troops killed 30 people and injured many more in an unprovoked attack in a market in the Central African Republic.

In a statement, Chad's government expressed its indignation and said the allegation was "defamatory".

It came as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a surprise visit to CAR in a show of support for efforts to end the sectarian conflict there.

Thousands of African and French troops are trying to restore order.

Chad has said it will pull its peacekeepers out of CAR in protest at the UN's claims.

On Friday the UN said an investigation had found Chadian troops "opened fire on the population without any provocation" inside a busy market in Bangui on 29 March.

Thirty people were killed and another 300 people were injured in the shooting, it said.

Wave of violence

The troops, who were reportedly on a mission to evacuate some of the city's remaining Muslim inhabitants, said they were attacked first by militias.

In the year since the Muslim Seleka rebels ousted the CAR government last March, the country has been engulfed by a wave of religious violence.

Why are Muslims fleeing their homes in CAR?

Under regional pressure, the country's first Muslim leader, President Michel Djotodia, stepped down in January but attacks have not stopped.

Thousands of Muslims, a minority in CAR, have been fleeing to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon after being targeted by Christian militias, known as anti-balakas.

The UN secretary general said on Saturday those displaced by the violence in CAR could "count on the international community", according to AP.

Mr Ban was due to have talks with the country's interim president and address parliament before leaving for Rwanda to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide there.

'Firing indiscriminately'

Chad has contributed roughly 850 soldiers to a contingent of 6,000 African Union peacekeepers tasked with ending the bloodshed in CAR.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN's human rights office, said initial investigations appeared to show that the troops involved in the incident on 29 March were not part of the AU mission.

The soldiers arrived in pick-up trucks in the northern PK-12 suburb, one of two areas in Bangui where there are still some Muslim inhabitants threatened by the anti-balakas, Mr Colville said.

"As soon as the convoy reached the market area... it reportedly opened fire on the population without any provocation," he said in a statement.

"At the time, the market was full of people... As panic-stricken people fled in all directions, the soldiers allegedly continued firing indiscriminately."

Members of a Christian militia train in Bangui, Central African Republic, on 24 February 2014 Anti-balaka militiamen training in Bangui

Mr Colville told the BBC the reasons for the attack were unclear.

"It's appalling to shoot in a crowded market place," he said.

Chad's government dismissed the accusations as "defamatory and tendentious", according to a government statement sent to AFP news agency on Saturday.

"The government of the Republic of Chad expresses its surprise and indignation faced with the purported investigation published by the United Nations Human Rights Commission," it said.

Chad, which neighbours CAR to the north and has a predominantly Muslim population, has said its peacekeeping forces will remain in CAR while the details of the withdrawal were worked out.

The ousted president of CAR, Francois Bozize, told the BBC last year that Chadian troops had helped drive him from office, which Chad has denied.

The African Union contingent in the country is backed by some 2,000 French troops.

Map showing the location of the Central African Republic and the countries that border it

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