French troops who killed 2 Indians in CAR mistook vehicles for car bombs

CAR

Preliminary information from a high-level inquiry launched by France into the killing of two Indians by French soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday has revealed that the soldiers had faced hostile vehicles and were fired at from unidentified sources in the two hours before the shooting incident and could have mistaken the vehicles carrying the Indians as possible "car bombs".

Also, six of the 15 Indians in three vehicles were injured in the shooting in CAR's capital of Bangui.

While French President Francois Hollande called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday and regretted the incident, French officials have explained to their Indian counterparts that the situation was very "volatile" in the city and French troops had witnessed hostile vehicles charging towards Bangui airport and had been fired at from unknown sources in the preceding hours.

The situation in Bangui has worsened since last week after rebels have taken the city as President Francois Bozize fled the country. The French had sent 300 additional troops from neighbouring Gabon last week, in addition to the 200 already stationed there as part of its mission since 2002 to maintain peace in the former French colony.

Sources told The Indian Express that about two hours prior to the shooting incident on Monday morning, which took place outside the Bangui airport, a pick-up truck had come charging towards the French soldiers protecting the airport.

It stopped and did a U-turn before fleeing the spot after the soldiers fired warning shots. Apparently, the French troops guarding the airport, which had several foreign nationals waiting inside, faced more firing incidents.

Sometime later, three vehicles carrying 15 Indians and some Chad nationals came towards the airport, and although warning shots were fired in the air by the French soldiers, they did not stop.

The French troops, which had maintained a defensive position so far, were alarmed and fired at the vehicles carrying Indians who were working in pharmaceutical companies and travel agencies.

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