Seleka fighters take a break as they sit on a pick-up truck
in the town of Goya. Photo by Reuters
More than 50 people have been killed in two days of
clashes in Central African Republic, witnesses and officials
said, with foreign troops struggling to stop recurrent violence
between Muslim and Christian communities.
Witnesses in Bambari, 380km northwest of the capital Bangui,
said an initial attack early on Monday (local time) by mainly
Christian militia on its outskirts led to waves of reprisals
by Muslim youths and fighting inside the town.
Bambari sits on a sectarian fault line now cleaving the
country, where over a year of violence has killed thousands,
forced a million from their homes and led to most Muslims
fleeing into northern zones closer to Chad and Sudan.
The violence in the landlocked ex-French colony dates to the
takeover last year of Bangui by the mostly Muslim Seleka
rebel group, whose time in power was marked by a string of
rights abuses, leading to the creation of the Christian
Seleka stepped down earlier this year under intense
international pressure but a weak interim government has
failed to stamp its authority on the country, which is rich
in gold and diamonds but seen little but violence and
Ibrahim Alawad, a witness in Bambari, said he had counted at
least 22 bodies in the village of Liwa, about 7km from
Bambari, after the initial attack by Christian militia known
"Some had been cut to pieces, some had their hearts cut out.
I saw about five children and six women."
Citing reports from other witnesses, he added: "After that
the youth of the Muslim area went there. They killed about 10
Robert Ponsien, a doctor and project coordinator for medical
aid agency MSF in Bambari, said rising tension there
triggered clashes on Monday during which 34 people were
killed, while another 17 were killed in Liwa.
"There was a lot of violence. In the hospital, we had 28
wounded by gunshot and machete," Ponsien told Reuters by
telephone, adding that the upsurge of violence forced several
hundreds to flee to Bambari's Catholic church premises.
There was no immediate comment from the government.
Captain Sebastien Isern, spokesman for Sangaris, the French
peacekeeping force in the country, said the situation in
Bambari degenerated after peacekeeping troops left the town
for Liwa to investigate the initial attack.
He said the French force had sent a helicopter over Bambari
Tuesday afternoon to discourage violence on the ground, but
he denied a witness's account that the aircraft had opened
Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the local Red Cross, said
fighting was continuing on Tuesday and it was too early for
Red Cross staff to collect bodies.
A witness at the Catholic Church in Bambari said Muslims who
went to Liwa after the initial attack began shooting at
people and burning houses in revenge once they returned to
Bambari on Monday.
"It was revenge ... there were many dead yesterday," said the
witness, who gave her name only as Marie-Rosalie. She said
she had counted five bodies near the church but had received
reports of as many as 100 lying in the town's morgue.
Earlier this month, President Catherine Samba-Panza asked the
International Criminal Court to open an investigation into
crimes committed during inter-communal violence raging in
Central African Republic since mid-2012.