US diplomats in the Central African Republic are being evacuated to Kenya as fears increase that rebel forces will soon advance on the capital, Bangui.
Ambassador Laurence Wahlers was one of about 40 people taken out by a US Air Force plane last night. The evacuation came after President François Bozizé called on foreign powers to help his government fend off rebels who are quickly seizing territory.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, had ordered the evacuation at the State Department’s request.
Meanwhile 64 former child soldiers rescued by the children’s charity Unicef, in work being funded by The Independent’s Christmas appeal, have been moved to a secure compound within the capital. Amid the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations has evacuated staff but key Unicef aid workers have remained to protect and take care of thechildren.
Speaking to crowds in Bangui, a city of some 600,000, Mr Bozizé pleaded with foreign powers, including the Central African Republic’s former colonial ruler, France, to help.
Donations to support Unicef in its continuing protection of the rescued children can be made by going to www.unicef.org.uk/independent or calling 0800 037 9797.