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'Scapegoated'? Westerners accused of massacre in Central African Republic

A Swedish safari boss, his British pilot and 13 of their staff have been accused of torturing and killing 18 people in the Central African Republic, according to reports.

However, Erik Mararv, of Central African Wildlife Adventures, and 24-year-old aviator David Simpson say they simply discovered the bodies and were arrested when they reported the gruesome find to the authorities, according to Britain's Channel 4 News. 

The people killed in the massacre were burned with hot water and then hacked to death with machetes.

Simpson said he spotted the bodies while flying over the southeast of the country, near Bakouma, and he believes they were killed by Joseph Kony’s infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Simpson’s brother Paul told Channel 4 that he thought they were being blackmailed, while a member of Conciliation Resources, a charity that campaigns for peace and has worked on the Kony problem, suggested they were being “scapegoated” because of the inability of the authorities to tackle the LRA.

'I had nothing to do with it'
Despite being held in jail for more than six weeks, Simpson has access to a cellphone and a laptop computer, although communications are difficult.

“Now I have been forced to sign a piece of paper which states that I have been charged with murdering 13 people," he told the Daily Mail newspaper. "It is just ridiculous. Everyone knows I had nothing to do with it. They know it was Kony. 

In Gulu, the site of a 2004 massacre and warlord Joseph Kony's hometown, people are still terrorized that he might return. NBC's Rohit Kachroo reports.

“It’s all about money. They think because I am white, I must be wealthy," he added. "When they first arrested me, my bail was set at one million euros, which is just ludicrous. I do not know what is going to happen. It’s like a nightmare. I’m sleeping on the floor with no blankets or mattress. I just want this to be over."

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Speaking from Gillamoor, England, David’s father Peter Simpson told Channel 4 that their situation was “about as stressful a thing as you could ever wish to happen to anybody.”

But he added that he was “positive he [David] will come back.”

NYT: In vast jungle, US troops aid hunt for Kony

Paul Simpson told Channel 4 that because it was "two white men who reported it, they held them and arrested them and blackmailed them."

A viral video that takes aim at African warlord Joseph Kony has racked up nearly 64 million views online. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports on the phenomenon.

'Face-saving exercise'
Caesar Poblicks, of Conciliation Resources, told the broadcaster that the authorities in Central African Republic were “kind of covering up” what really happened.

“It’s a face-saving exercise where he [Simpson] is actually scapegoated for lack of ability to actually apprehend those who have done this kind of activity,” he added.

Central African Wildlife Adventures describes itself as “the most exclusive safari company in Central Africa,” that offers safaris in “the heart of a wilderness within the heart of Africa.”

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“In the eastern Central African Republic lies a vast territory … totally free of any human encroachment,” its website says.

It says that none of the area where the company operates “has ever been hunted by white men before.”

“Most of it has never even been hunted by natives… It’s simply too far away. The area is very special in the way that we can combine savannah hunting with forest hunting … You may in the morning hunt the majestic Lord Derby Eland and in the evening track one of our forest trails for the elusive Bongo,” it added. “Or why not call for lion? We entirely hunt our lions either by tracking or by calling in early mornings or late afternoons. This is one of the most adrenaline rushing hunts one can ever experience.”

In 'Kony' town, video is hardly a sensation

The U.K. Foreign Office advises people not to travel to the southeastern part of the country, including Bakouma.

The State Department warns that “armed rebel groups, bandits, and poachers present real dangers, and the Central African government is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in most parts of the country.”

“The continued presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern CAR poses a particular safety and security threat,” it adds in online information about the country.

It says U.S. citizens should not travel outside the capital Bangui unless it is essential.

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