Thousands flee to C. African Republic airport
By Paul-Marin Ngoupana, ReutersBANGUI -- Thousands of civilians have fled to the Central African Republic's main international airport to escape marauding former rebel fighters and have occupied the tarmac, blocking some flights from landing, witnesses and officials said.
August 30, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
Residents of the Boeing quarter adjacent to the capital's M'poko airport began fleeing their homes on Tuesday night after Seleka fighters starting shooting up their neighbourhood.
The Central African Republic has descended into chaos since the rebels swept into Bangui in March, toppling President Francois Bozize and unleashing a wave of violence that new leader Michel Djotodia has failed to control.
“There are thousands of people in the airport and on the tarmac since last night after the Seleka raid,” said a senior officer with a Central African regional peacekeeping mission based at the airport.
“They came here because they are afraid,” he said. The peacekeepers were forced to intervene to stop Seleka fighters from entering, he said.
Seleka, a grouping of five rebel movements that Djotodia used to lead, has repeatedly raided rural villages and Bangui neighborhoods under the pretext of searching for weapons caches and armed Bozize loyalists.
But human rights groups say they are responsible for widespread looting, torture and summary executions.
French President Francois Hollande called on the U.N. Security Council and the African Union on Tuesday to stabilize the situation in the Central African Republic, warning it was at risk of going the way of Somalia.