Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic

A man looks on as smoke rises from an attack on a village in Central African Republic (CAR) in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic

BANGUI: About 7,400 people have been forced to flee their homes as fighting raged between rival militias in northwest Central African Republic, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.
The internally displaced people in the area of Markounda since late December have faced living conditions that “are extremely difficult,,” according to the ICRC, which is working alongside the Central African Red Cross and the NGO Doctors Without Borders.
“Families are confined to makeshift huts. The only health center in Markounda has been looted since the outbreak of hostilities, there are not enough showers and latrines,” said Jean-Francois Sangsue, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui.
For more than a month two rival armed groups, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) and Revolution and Justice (RJ), have been battling for control of the area.
Up until the end of last year, they divided territory and checkpoints — a crucial source of income where businessmen, travelers and farmers are charged a fee to pass through.
But the murder of an RJ leader in November set off a chain reaction of killing and counter-killing.
More than 65,000 people have already fled fighting in the area to take refuge in Paoua, a town whose normal population is 40,000, according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
An operation by a United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) has been under way since mid-January to neutralize the armed groups.
The Central African Republic — one of the poorest countries in the world — has been mired in a deadly conflict since 2013.
The state has control over only a small part of the territory, while armed groups battle in the provinces for control of diamonds, gold and silver


Pakistan minister urges Iran to take action against terror camps inside its borders

Updated 19 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan minister urges Iran to take action against terror camps inside its borders

  • Pakistan doing ‘everything’ to facilitate peace process, says spokesperson

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has demanded that neighboring Iran take action against “terrorist camps” in its border regions following an attack in Balochistan that left 14 army personnel dead.

The move comes amid fears that the situation could escalate into a full-blown conflict between the two countries if it is not resolved.

On Thursday, gunmen disguised as Pakistani security officials forced passengers off buses on the Makran coastal highway in the southwestern province bordering Iran and killed 14 Pakistani army personnel.

“We have identified terrorist camps that exist in Iran’s border areas,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said. 

“We are hopeful Iran will take action against these terrorists. Today, I had a detailed conversation with the Iranian foreign minister in which I conveyed Pakistan’s sentiments and expectations,” the foreign minister added. 

“The Iranian foreign minister has guaranteed his country’s full cooperation in the matter.”

BRAS, an alliance of three Baloch separatist organizations, was behind the attack, Qureshi said.

Pakistan has identified the alliance’s training and logistical camps inside Iran’s borders and shared details with Tehran, he said.

The foreign minister said Pakistan expected Iran to take action.

The separatist alliance also has a presence and leadership in Afghanistan, he added.

Qureshi’s comments came on the eve of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day maiden visit to Iran which began on Sunday.

Retired Gen. Talat Masood, a security analyst, said that Islamabad has told Iran’s leadership that “its land was being used for terror activities within Pakistan.”

“Iran has been trying to strengthen its relationship with Pakistan to offset international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear program,” he told Arab News. 

“In this context, we can expect Iran to initiate action against terrorist outfits that are accused of (acting) against Pakistan.”

Another security analyst, Zaigham Khan, urged the Pakistani PM to raise the issue of terror camps with Iran’s leadership during his visit to Tehran.

“The use of Iranian territory by militants against Pakistan is worrying for our security institutions,” he told Arab News. 

“This could turn into a full-blown conflict if Tehran fails to initiate action against militants using its territory.”

On Friday, the foreign affairs minister lodged a formal protest with Iran for failing to take action against militant groups Islamabad believes use bases on Iranian territory to launch attacks against Pakistan.

“Pakistan awaits Iran’s response to its request for action against these groups, whose locations have been identified by Pakistan a number of times,” the Foreign Office said.

Giving details of Thursday’s attack, the foreign office said up to 20 gunmen in paramilitary uniforms stopped three or four buses at dawn on April 18 and, after identifying the passengers, killed 14 Pakistani troops.

“After the incident, the terrorists who arrived from border region (between Pakistan and Iran) returned to that area,” it said.

The Foreign Office said Islamabad had repeatedly shared “information about the hubs of these Baloch terrorist organizations in Iran.”

“Unfortunately, no action has been taken by Iran,” it said.

Separatist groups have been waging an insurgency in Balochistan for more than a decade, demanding an end to what they see as the exploitation of their resources by people from other parts of Pakistan.

In May 2015, gunmen wearing security forces uniforms killed at least 22 passengers after forcing them off buses traveling from the western city of Quetta to Karachi.

Militants and Balochi separatists frequently target civilians and security forces in Balochistan, which is at the center of the much-vaunted $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that Pakistan is building with Chinese loans.