Dozens killed as fresh fighting erupts in CAR

At least 37 people dead in capital Bangui, while local hospitals overflow with injured from sectarian clashes.

Last updated: 21 Dec 2013 00:57
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A fresh round of fighting has broken out in the Central African Republic, where sectarian violence has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

At least 37 people died in the capital Bangui over just 24 hours, a security source told Al Jazeera on Friday.

In one incident, peacekeepers tried to disarm a group of former Seleka rebels, killing three of them. At least one soldier from the peacekeeping force was also killed.

"No-one knows the precise numbers of dead or injured, but the poorly equipped hospitals of this city are overflowing," Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reported from Bangui.

We don't want mosques in our country.

Clavert Bettare, resident

African peacekeeping forces and French troops were trying to contain the violence, as aid agencies struggled to provide the basics for survival for scores of displaced people.

The latest outbreak of violence came after days of relative calm in the Central African Republic, where Christian and Muslim groups have for weeks been engaged in a bloody feud.

The fighting in the former French colony is between the mainly Muslim Seleka fighters - originally from neighbouring Chad and Sudan - and the Christian anti-Balaka, whose name means "anti-machete," the weapon of choice for Seleka.

International concern

Despite international efforts to contain the crisis, the divisions in the impoverished country remain deep, threatening to tear it apart.

On Friday, a mob of young men wearing crucifixes attacked a mosque, pounding holes into its cinderblock walls and methodically stripping apart the corrugated iron roof and tossing the pieces on the ground.

"We don't want mosques in our country," shouted Clavert Bettare, with a machete strapped to his back.

The night before, residents in the Gobango neighbourhood said clashes between rival Muslim and Christian militias spiralled into a firefight when Chadian troops from the African Union peacekeeping force rolled up and began shooting at civilians.

A government statement on Friday said the Chadian troops responded after being attacked by a grenade hurled by Christian militias, whom they accused of kidnapping people and terrorising the population.

Fears of mass atrocities and possibly genocide has spurred an international response spearheaded by 1,600 French troops backed by African forces from Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi and Gabon.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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