Two Indians killed in CAR

Two Indians, Krishnayya Mogaveera from Mangalore and Karna Bahadur from Lucknow, were mistakenly killed by French soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday. They were apparently trying to leave the country that plunged into chaos following a coup on Sunday.

Six Indians and a few Chadians were also injured. France has conveyed its regret to India and promised an investigation.

Mogaveera and Bahadur were among the 100 Indians living in CAR, mostly engaged in trading and construction works in and around the capital Banqui.

The incident occurred when French soldiers guarding the Banqui M’Poko International Airport opened fire on the vehicles in which the Indians were travelling.

The soldiers, France claimed, had mistaken the vehicles to those belonging to the gunmen loyal to rebel leader Michel Djotodia, who has proclaimed himself as the new President of the CAR, after dethroning Francois Bozize in a coup.

Paris is understood to have conveyed to New Delhi that the French soldiers guarding M’Poko International Airport in Banqui were fired upon by unidentified gunmen around 11:30 am IST on Monday.

A truck had tried to break into the airport, but made a U-turn and sped away from the scene after being fired upon. “About an hour later,” said a senior official in Delhi, “three vehicles were seen speeding into the airport. They ignored the warning shots fired by the French troops and continued to move towards the airport at a very high speed. The soldiers then opened fire at the vehicles, killing two Indians and injuring others.”

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence of the French Government on Tuesday, the soldiers immediately took care of the injured Indians and Chadian nationals.

Sources told Deccan Herald that the injured were flown to a medical facility of the French Army at N’Djamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad. 

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing regret over the tragedy and promising an investigation. Defence Minister A K Antony also received a call from his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday.

The prime minister expressed his deep distress at the loss of innocent lives and directed that all efforts be made to ensure the safety of approximately 100 Indian nationals in the CAR.

New Delhi asked Indian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Manohar Ram, who is concurrently accredited to the CAR, to make necessary arrangements for return of the mortal remains of Bahadur and Mogaveera.

The CAR ceased to be a French colony in 1960. France, however, continued to have its soldiers to protect its interests.

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