The United Nations has opened an independent investigation to determine whether UN peacekeepers responded appropriately to an outbreak of recent violence in the Central African Republic. A team led by retired Brigadier-General Fernand Marcel Amoussou of Benin will arrive in the country on Tuesday and carry out the investigation until November 28. "The investigation will look into attacks against civilians by armed groups that occurred in close proximity to a presence of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in Haute-Kotto, Basse-Kotto, Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou prefectures, as well as the mission's response to these incidents," said a UN statement. It will focus on violence that occurred between May and August of this year. In July, three Moroccan peacekeepers were killed in two separate attacks by suspected anti-Balaka fighters in Bangassou, a predominantly Christian town that has been among the worst hit by violence. Six UN troops and 66 civilians were killed in a separate attack by the anti-Balaka in May in which Muslim civilians sought refuge in a mosque that was initially protected by MINUSCA but the UN force later withdrew. The mosque's imam was shot dead when he tried to leave. UN troops later escorted the Muslims to a small seminary owned by the Catholic Church.
Around 2,000 are still there, but living in permanent fear of attack by the anti-Balaka. The team will prepare a report with a view to determining whether the peacekeepers could have prevented the violence and better protected civilians. The Central African Republic has been struggling to return to stability since the country exploded into bloodshed after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance. France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka alliance, but the country remains plagued with violence pitting groups competing for control of resources and areas of influence. MINUSCA deployed in 2014 with a strong mandate to protect civilians. On Wednesday, the Security Council is expected to bolster the mission with 900 extra peacekeepers, bringing MINUSCA's force level to about 13,750.
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