Crowds block airport in Central African Republic

AP News
Posted: Dec 31, 2013 4:31 PM

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Thousands of angry people flooded the runway of the international airport in the chaotic capital of Central African Republic, shouting slogans against the nation's Muslim president, who grabbed power in a coup nine months ago.

French forces deployed at the airport were unable to stop them and international flights appeared to have been suspended.

Central African Republic has been in a state of near-anarchy since an attack on the capital, Bangui, earlier this month by a Christian militia aiming to overthrow Michel Djotodia, the Muslim coup leader. That attack unleashed a wave of communal violence.

The number of displaced people in Bangui has increased 70 percent in the past two weeks, from 214,000 to 370,000, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people have sought refuge at the airport, the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

Until now, the refugees, mostly Christians, had been living peacefully under pieces of plastic on the edge of the airport.

The U.N. humanitarian agency said a total of 785,000 people have been displaced across the country and some 2.2 million need assistance. At the airport, humanitarian workers are trying to deliver emergency assistance, including medical care and malnutrition screening for children.