New violence and looting in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, has left at least nine people dead, including two more lynchings of minority Muslims.
The latest assaults in the former French colony included mob attacks and an assassination attempt targeting the former justice minister.
Fighting broke out on Saturday evening between Christian vigilantes and Muslims in the west of Bangui where many buildings were torched, witnesses and humanitarian officials told AFP news agency.
A resident told AFP that the Muslim killer of a Christian woman was lynched and killed before his body was burned and deposited in front of the local town hall, where it could be seen early on Sunday.
A suspected Christian militia member killed another Muslim civilian, and was about to burn the body when Rwandan soldiers of the African peacekeeping force MISCA shot him, a witness who gave his name as Innocent told AFP.
The shooting prompted an angry crowd to shout slogans against the Rwandan soldiers, whom they mistakenly believed to be Muslim. Five other people were killed in unclear circumstances, the witnesses said.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights organisation, confirmed the witness reports and said another Muslim was lynched early on Sunday near Bangui’s central market.
In a separate incident, the Central African League of Human Rights told AFP, a Bangui politician was killed by attackers on a motorcycle on Sunday.
Jean-Emmanuel Ndjaroua, representative of the southeast region of Haute Kotto, had condemned violence against the Muslim residents of his district in front of the interim parliament on Saturday.
CAR has been engulfed in violence for nearly a year since the Seleka rebel group installed Michel Djotodia as the country’s first Muslim president in a coup in March 2013.
The following months saw rogue Seleka fighters unleash a wave of atrocities against the Christian majority, prompting the emergence of vigilante groups.
The violence has raged unabated even after Djotodia stepped aside and the parliament appointed interim President Catherine Samba-Panza last month, and Muslims have been fleeing the violence in their thousands.
A man was lynched on Friday after he fell off a lorry in a convoy of terrified Muslims fleeing Bangui. Residents hacked him to death and dumped his body on the roadside.
Amid the killings, looting was also rampant in Bangui, where young people could be seen removing furniture and equipment from buildings and shops.
Some of the properties were still smouldering from fires set on Saturday, despite the heavy presence of French and African peacekeepers as a French helicopter gunship circled above.
The peacekeepers went from door to door to try to rout the looters, who simply moved on to other targets, pushing their carts and wheel-barrows between French armoured cars.
The violence came as Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s defence minister, began an African tour on Sunday in the Chadian capital N’Djamena mainly focused on the CAR conflict.
Chad has 850 troops in MISCA and is also home to 950 French troops – France’s largest concentration of soldiers abroad after Djibouti.
Meanwhile, the Hague-backed International Criminal Court said on Friday it had opened an initial probe into war crimes in the CAR.
Atrocities, the fear of attacks and a lack of food have displaced almost a quarter of the country’s population of about 4.6 million, while the UN and relief agencies estimate that at least two million people need humanitarian assistance.