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About 20 Congolese peacekeepers from the African Union-led peacekeeping mission known as MISCA have allegedly abducted at least 11 civilians in Central African Republic, Human Rights Watch has said.
The peacekeepers took the civilians, including four women, from the house of a local militia leader in Boali, 80 kilometres north of the capital Bangui.
The peacekeepers detained the people after Christian militiamen known as Anti-Balaka killed a Congolese peacekeeper and wounded four others.
What is MISCA?
MISCA (French acronym for Mission Internationale de Soutien à la Centrafrique, which translates into English as International Support Mission to Central African Republic) is a peacekeeping mission established on 5 December 2013 by the UN, following the euption of the sectarian conflict in CAR.
MISCA is led by the African Union (a union formed by 54 African states) and is also backed by France, which has sent some 2,000 troops to CAR to help halt the violence.
"The African Union needs to say what happened to the group that was detained and taken by the Congolese peacekeepers," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW.
"The peacekeepers are there to protect the civilian population, not to abuse them."
Local residents, including officials and activists, said that they were too afraid to investigate or even discuss the incident because the Congolese MISCA members are known for intimidation and violence.
MISCA's leadership announced that an investigation into the incident had been ordered and would be conducted by its human rights section.
HRW investigated another incident involving the MISCA Congolese peacekeepers in December 2003. The peacekeepers were believed to have tortured to death two anti-Balaka leaders following the brutal lynching of a Congolese MISCA soldier the same day.
"Enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings of civilians are serious human rights crimes and make a mockery of MISCA's mandate," Bouckaert said. "At stake is nothing less than the reputation and legitimacy of the peacekeeping force in a country that desperately needs protection."
MISCA Peacekeepers have been also accused by Amnesty International of failing to prevent the conflict in CAR.
CAR CONFLICT FACTBOX
The CAR conflict has pitted Muslim Seleka forces against Christian Anti-Balaka militias following the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by Michel Djotodia, a Muslim.
The two warring factions have engaged in a tit-for-tat violence that has resulted in over 2,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of displacements since.
Following months of fighting, Djotodia resigned, accused by many of being unable to halt the conflict.
The brutal ethnic cleansing has been strongly condemned by several NGOs.