CAR militias deny links with French journalist's death

The predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia and the predominantly Muslim seleka militia on Wednesday both denounced the recent killing of a French photojournalist

The predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia and the predominantly Muslim seleka militia on Wednesday both denounced the recent killing of a French photojournalist

BANGUI – The predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia and the predominantly Muslim seleka militia on Wednesday both denounced the recent killing of a French photojournalist in the Central African Republic (CAR), denying any links to the murder.

"We want peace to prevail; this means that we aren't on the offensive," said Nguitimalet, a seleka lieutenant at the Beal Camp, one of three camps in which seleka fighters are concentrated in capital Bangui.

"This was why condemnation was our first reaction to news of the murder of the journalist," he told Anadolu Agency.

French photojournalist Camille Lepage was killed in western CAR not far from the Cameroonian border, according to a statement issued by the French presidency late Tuesday.

The body of the 26-year-old was found by French peacekeeping troops inside a vehicle belonging to Christian anti-Balaka militiamen.

Nguitimalet called on the authorities to find, arrest and punish Lepage's killers.

Meanwhile, anti-balaka intelligence chief Abdel Fatah Mama said his militia had no presence in the area in which the French photojournalist was killed.

"Our alliance can't commit such a crime," Mama told AA.

Sources close to the French peacekeeping mission said Lepage's body had been found – along with four other bodies – in Bouar town, roughly 450km from Bangui.

Anti-balaka members quoted CAR army sources as saying that the five might have been killed by an armed group that ambushed them in the town.

French peacekeepers, however, could not confirm these assertions.

Anti-balaka spokesman Emotion Namssio insisted his militia could not have killed Lepage.

"We know her well, having worked with her on many occasions," Namssio said, condemning her murder.

He added that his militia had also lost four men at around the same time as the journalist's death.

On May 6, Lepage tweeted that she was travelling with anti-balaka militants and avoiding checkpoints set up by African peacekeepers.

She is the first western journalist to be killed in CAR. Two Central African journalists were already killed this month in Bangui.

CAR, a landlocked, mineral-rich country, descended into anarchy one year ago when seleka rebels – said to be mostly Muslim – ousted Christian president Francois Bozize, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.

According to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), around 173,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence since last December, while 37,000 others have fled to neighboring countries.

Over 30,000 have sought refuge in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo, while Chad has received 5600 and Cameroon roughly 1000 refugees, according to UNHCR figures.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency