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Muslims hide in CAR church after killings

Hundreds flee village to find a refuge in Catholic church after 70 people are killed by Christian fighters.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2014 20:59
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Sectarian violence in the CAR has forced hundreds of thousands to flee [AFP]

Hundreds of Muslims are seeking refuge in a Catholic Church in the Central African Republic town of Carnot following the killing of at least 70 people in the country's remote southwest.

The Muslims fled to the church after Christian fighters known as the anti-Balaka attacked Guen, about 100km away, earlier this month, said Catholic priest, Father Rigobert Dolongo.

Dolongo told the Associated Press news agency on Monday that he helped bury the bodies of those killed.

At least 27 people were slain in the first day of the attack, while 43 others were killed on the second day, he said.

Ibrahim Aboubakar, 22, said the anti-Balaka stormed Guen and killed his two older brothers after they were heard speaking in Arabic.

"Later that day they rounded up dozens of people and forced them all to lie down on their stomachs. Then they shot them one by one," he said from the church.

Rescue plea

Those Muslims still in Guen appealed by telephone for African peacekeepers in Carnot to rescue them, according to two Muslim residents who insisted on anonymity because they feared for their lives.

They also confirmed the heavily armed anti-Balaka were still in control of the village on Tuesday.

However, the local commander for the peacekeeping mission said he needed permission from his supervisors in the capital, Bangui, to go to Guen.

His comments came as the head of France's preacekeeping mission in the republic denied claims by rights groups of ethnic cleansing, but admitted Muslims were under "intense pressure".

General Francisco Soriano, the head of France's Sangaris force deployed in December, told Europe 1 Radio while some Muslims "are scared and some have been displaced, others have remained and are protected by other communities".

Muslims from neighbouring countries - especially Chad - had been evacuated, Soriano said.

Soriano on Sunday said violence and sectarian fighting in the country had abated since the arrival of the French peacekeepers.

The French parliament will vote on Tuesday on extending the mission, whose mandate is due to expire in April.
The number of French peacekeepers is expected to rise from 1,600 to 2,000 to support a 6,000-strong African Union force.

Before the outbreak of violence Muslims made up about 15 per cent of the country's 4.6 million people.

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