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UN sends peacekeepers to protect Sudanese refugees in Central African Republic

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United Nations peacekeepers were sent today to protect a camp of refugees from Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region in the north-east of the Central African Republic (CAR) and humanitarian staff working there after an attack, apparently by bandits, left three people dead on a nearby road.

"This attack apparently due to people seeking to block the road [between Sam Ouandja and Ouanda-Djale], has provoked serious tension between the UFDR, a armed Central African group, two of whose members were killed, and the Sudanese refugees of Sam Ouandja," the UN mission set up to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid in Chad and CAR said in a communiqué.

The mission, known by the acronym MINURCAT, added that it was following the situation closely and would reinforce its military presence in Sam Ouandja if necessary.

CAR, especially its north-east, has been plagued by armed rebels and bandits for years, a situation exacerbated by the spill-over of the Darfur conflict. UN officials have repeatedly called for an end to attacks on civilians that have seen scores of thousands of people driven into the bush, with scant means of sustenance, an appeal reiterated by the mission today.

"MINURCAT stresses that refugee camps must maintain their civilian character and that all attacks perpetrated against refugees or humanitarian workers constitute a violation of international human rights that can entail penal consequences," it said.