Sudan Islamists burn French flag at Central Africa demo

14th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Islamist protesters in Sudan burned the French flag on Friday during their second weekly protest against France's intervention in the Central African Republic.

About 200 demonstrators accused French peacekeepers and the mostly Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) vigilantes in Central Africa of "crimes against humanity" as they set one flag alight and cut up several others.

"Down, down France!" the group, calling themselves the Popular Front to Support African Muslims, shouted near the gates of the presidential palace in central Khartoum after weekly prayers.

Two thousand French and 6,000 African peacekeepers have been deployed to Central Africa, which borders Sudan, on a mission to halt sectarian killings.

But violence has forced almost all of the country's Muslim minority to flee amid fears the conflict could turn into ethnic cleansing, a top UN official warned in Geneva on Monday.

The country is "being emptied of its Muslim population," said Adama Dieng, the UN adviser on the prevention of genocide.

The Central African Republic's Muslim minority until recently accounted for between 10 and 15 percent of the total population, but has dropped to around two percent as Muslims have fled their homes in the majority-Christian nation, Dieng said.

Kamal Riziq, the imam of Sudan's Grand Mosque near the protest site, told the crowd that 400 families from Central Africa had arrived in Khartoum.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended deploying a 12,000-strong force to the former French colony.

"Shame on you, Ban," the Sudanese protesters called. They also denounced the United States.

On Tuesday President Francois Hollande said France was on guard after a militant Islamist website called for his assassination in revenge for intervening militarily in Mali and the Central African Republic.

Police reinforcements were deployed around the French embassy in another part of Khartoum, a witness said, but protesters dispersed peacefully in the city-centre.

They said they would deliver a message on Sunday to the United Nations, seeking the withdrawal of French troops and an emergency Security Council meeting.

This week's protest was smaller than the one held a week earlier. Many demonstrators arrived on buses but it was not clear who provided them.

Riot police deployed near the demonstration made no attempt to intervene, as they normally do against anti-government protests.

Last Tuesday, a student died from gunshot wounds after security forces opened fire with tear gas and live ammunition at a University of Khartoum demonstration for peace in Sudan's Darfur region, Amnesty International said.

Police said they had only used tear gas.

Dozens were also killed during anti-government protests last September.

According to the official SUNA news agency, Sudan last month expressed to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation its "concern and condemnation over the killing and violence being committed against the Muslims in the Central African Republic".

© 2014 AFP

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