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After attack, MSF rethinks CAR

April 28, 2014

Medecins Sans Frontieres will suspend activities in a Central African Republic town. It was a response to rebels opening fire in a hospital in Boguila, killing at least 16, including three MSF health workers.

Image: SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images

MSF Central African Republic head Stefano Argenziano announced the decision Monday, following the attack in Boguila. In much of the country of 4.6 million people, MSF (pictured above at a hospital in the capital, Bangui), also known as Doctors Without Borders, represents the only outside group providing health services, and Saturday's attack became the first time the group lost staff members in the country since sectarian violence began in December.

"While we remain committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the community, we also have to take into account the safety of our staff," Argenziano said on Monday. "In reaction to this unconscionable act, we are also examining whether it is feasible to continue operations in other areas."

On Saturday, in Boguila, a town near the border with Chad where MSF has operated since 2006, rebels affiliated with the Seleka group assaulted the compound as health workers met with community leaders. MSF announced that the attackers had killed at least 16 civilians - some reports put the numbers as high as 22 - including three aid workers for the group, and wounded a dozen people.

"While some of the gunmen robbed the MSF office at gunpoint and fired shots into the air, other armed men approached the meeting place where MSF staff and community members had gathered together on benches," the group announced on Monday. "Unprovoked, the armed men started firing heavily into the crowd, leaving both dead and critically wounded."

'Need for justice'

Roman Nadal, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, said on Monday that the French government "strongly condemns the deadly attack".

"The perpetrators of this intolerable attack must be brought to justice," Nadal said on Monday, adding his praise for MSF's work "in difficult conditions and under threat to their lives."

In March 2013, Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian President Francois Bozize, and the country has found itself in violent turmoil ever since. Earlier in April, UN chief Ban Ki-moon made an impassioned plea to the warring parties to prevent a new genocide in Africa, 20 years after Rwanda. After a unanimous vote earlier this month by the Security Council, a 12,000-strong UN force will deploy in September, taking over from 2,000 French and 6,000 African Union soldiers already in place.

In violence Monday, a convoy transporting 1,300 Muslims to safety in the country's far north came under a grenade attack, leaving at least two people dead and injuring at least six, according to a spokesman with International Support Mission to the Central African Republic.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)