50 killed in fresh wave of violence in Central Africa

BANGUI, Central African Republic – Nearly 50 people have been killed in three days in a fresh surge of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, a peacekeeping officer said on Wednesday.

The violence was triggered by the killing of 17 Muslims at a camp in the central Bambari region on Monday, by gunmen claiming to be from a mostly Christian militia called the anti-balaka. "Nearly 50 people have been killed since Monday during violence in the Bambari region and nearby villages,” the officer from the African Union force MISCA told AFP.

"Most of the victims were shot or stabbed to death." Peacekeepers said that the violence has been carried out both by uncontrolled individuals and by small groups, and that civilians were fleeing towards the cathedral, the archbishops palace, and local government buildings for safety. "Apart from attacks aimed at civilians and the burning down of houses, there are also clashes that appear to be coordinated attacks by armed groups," both from Christian and Muslim militias, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Central African Republic has seen more than a year of unrest since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power in a coup, unfurling a vicious cycle of violence with largely Christian militias. The fighting has left tens of thousands dead and about a quarter of the population of some 4.5 million displaced.

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