US group says 98 girls in CAfrican Republic sexually abused

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.S.-based advocacy group said Wednesday that 98 girls in Central African Republic reported they were sexually abused by international peacekeepers, and three girls told U.N. staff they were tied up, undressed, and forced to have sex with a dog by a French military commander in 2014.

AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign to end sexual abuse and exploitation said the three girls told a U.N. human rights officer that a fourth girl tied up with them later died of an unknown disease.

The group said the information it received — including the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in another part of the country on Monday — is in the hands of senior U.N. officials.

The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo. There have been similar allegations against the French force known as Sangaris, which operates independently in Central African Republic, known as CAR.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said last week that a U.N. team was sent to gather information about recently reported allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. and non-U.N. forces as well as civilians in Kemo prefecture, east of the capital Bangui, in 2014 and 2015.

Dujarric said in a note to correspondents Wednesday evening that the new allegations actually went back to 2013 and also included allegations against local armed groups. He said a U.N. team is on the ground and the exact number and nature of “these extremely troubling allegations” is still being determined.

The team has identified the alleged involvement of U.N. contingents from Burundi and Gabon, which will remain confined to camps during the investigation, Dujarric said. Allegations against French forces in the same area are also being investigated, he said.

The U.N. recently reported that 25 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were registered with the U.N. mission in Central African Republic in January and February, most from previous years. This compares with a total of six allegations in the 15 other U.N. peacekeeping missions, in the first two months of this year, the U.N. peacekeeping department said.

A U.N. report earlier this month said there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015 — 22 of them in CAR.

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