Bangui – South African soldiers in the Central African Republic are seeking safe passage to the airport after taking heavy losses during fighting with Seleka rebels, Reuters reports.
The agency said at least nine SA soldiers were killed.
“I saw the bodies of six South African soldiers. They had all been shot,” a Reuters witness said. Later, he saw three more bodies in burned-out South African military vehicles.
Amy Martin of the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, told the BBC World Service that the SA troops had retreated to their barracks and were seeking safe passage to the airport.
Seleka spokesperson Eric Massi said the rebels had broken through a line of South African soldiers during their push into the city.
Around 400 South African troops were deployed in the country as military trainers.
Regional peacekeeping sources said the South Africans had fought alongside the Central African Republic’s army on Saturday to prevent rebels entering the capital.
They took substantial losses and have asked for French support to load their troops and take off,” said the source.
Meanwhile, AFP reported on Sunday night that widespread looting had broken out in the CAR capital.
Homes, shops, restaurants and cars were all fair game for looters in scenes repeated across the city.
“There’s a lot of looting by armed men. They break down the doors to go looting and then, afterwards, the people come and help themselves too,” said Nicaise Kabissou, who lives in the city centre.
Massi had promised on Saturday that the rebel coalition “will have zero tolerance for any looting, exaction or settling of scores”.
But that warning went unheeded on the ground.