x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Indian PM 'distressed' over killing of countrymen in Central African Republic

French soldiers protecting the Central African Republic's Bangui airport had killed two Indian nationals and injured six others.

NEW DELHI // The Indian prime minister expressed his "deep distress" over the killing of two Indians by French troops in the Central African Republic, where rebels have seized the capital.

Manmohan Singh "expressed his deep distress at the loss of innocent lives," according to a statement issued by India's ministry of external affairs late on Monday, and vowed to direct all efforts to ensure the safety of about 100 Indians present there.

On Monday, French soldiers protecting the Central African Republic's Bangui airport had killed two Indian nationals and injured six others.

The French defence ministry said that its soldiers were caught in a "confusing situation" when three vehicles kept moving towards the airport despite warning shots, adding that it happened at a time when the French forces "had just been fired at from an unknown source".

France President Francois Hollande expressed "regret" over the incident in a letter to Mr. Singh, and has ordered an investigation to be conducted, India's external affairs ministry said.

Central African Republic is in the midst of an ongoing civil war. Around 300 French soldiers were sent into Central African Republic over the weekend to reinforce the 250 troops already stationed there, when President Francois Bozize fled the country for Cameroon after rebels seized the capital of Bangui.

Over the same weekend, South Africa lost 13 of its soldiers who have been in the violence-rocked country since January to help shore up Mr Bozize's government.

Yesterday, Michel Djotodia, a rebel leader, took to the airwaves to make his first declaration, announcing he has dissolved the country's constitution and will stay in power for three years, according to excerpts from the broadcast carried on French radio.