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Deaths reported in violent Central African Republic protests

A fire fight broke out after hundreds gathered to protest UN troops' presence in the capital, Bangui. Some want the troops to leave, while others have called on them to take on a more aggressive role.

At least four people have been killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) after UN Peacekeepers exchanged gunfire with an unknown shooter during a protest over the UN's military role in the country.

At least 14 others were injured, including five UN troops, according to the UN mission, MINUSCA.

The UN has called for calm in the city, and has enhanced its patrols, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"MINUSCA intervened in the early morning hours of Monday to dismantle barricades erected by the demonstrators," the mission said in a statement. "MINUSCA believes that Monday's events constitute a new attempt by enemies of peace to disturb the return to constitutional normality," it added, adding that five peacekeepers were among the injured.

Protesters complained that the UN troops have recently been too passive in the face of deadly militant attacks. Earlier this month members of the Muslim Seleka militia killed 30 people and wounded 57 in the central town of Kaga Bandoro, .

A few days later, 11 people were shot and killed in a displaced people's camp northeast of the capital, Bangui.

Ousted by Islamic militants

The UN troops are there to support the administration of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected in February. His predecessor, Francois Bozize was ousted by the Seleka rebel alliance in March 2013.

Government spokesman Theodore Jousseau blamed the violence on politicians trying to destabilize President Touadera's government.

"These are embittered politicians who hide behind civil society to manipulate the population," he said.

Protesters carried anti-UN posters, threw stones and shouted at the troops, who responded with warning shots. UN forces also exchanged fire with armed men near the crowd.

Civil society organizations launched a petition last week calling for MINUSCA's departure from CAR and to re-equip the national armed forces, currently subject to a weapons embargo.

As gunfire echoed in the background, IT engineer Didier Fabrice Balandegue said he did not see the point in having the UN troops stay. "We have seen that their mission has no use and it's just better that they leave," he said.

bik/gsw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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