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Central African Republic: Aid group halts work after attacks on staff

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Adrienne Surprenant/Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif Item

Doctors Without Borders

Charity Doctors without Borders said Friday it was suspending operations in the Central African Republic (CAR) after its staff came under attack by armed groups.

The organization accuses fighters of attacks on health workers and facilities. 

In June, a convoy transporting patients to MSF’s hospital in Batangafo was caught in an ambush by armed men, leaving a patient’s caretaker dead.

"NGOs and also the Central African population are targeted by armed groups. This year we have documented 130 cases against NGOs with 3 cases of murder," said Denise Brwon, the organization's humanitarian coordinator in CAR.

Fighting resumed in the central African Republic last December as a rebel coalition allegedly backed by former President Francois Bozize sought to overthrow elected President Faustin-Archange Touadera. 

While the fighter's attempt on the capital Bangui was foiled, violence continues in the remote regions where the central government retains little control.

"Several health facilities have been visited by armed groups, health staff assaulted and some patients referred. Also, there have been intrusions of armed men in the health structures and this has forced us to make a difficult decision, but it is in relation to the insecurity, especially on the axes where we conduct mobile clinics, where there are supervision activities, vaccination activities, we had to suspend all these activities for security reasons," said Fidèle Ngombou, the support mission manager.

The charity says armed men often raid hospitals to arrest or interrogate patients, on top of assaulting medical workers and stealing drugs.