At least three Muslim youths have been killed and mutilated by a Christian militia in the Central African Republic while on their way to play in a reconciliation football game between the two faiths, according to organisers and a spokesman for the country’s Muslim community.
The match between Muslim and Christian youths was set up as part of efforts to forge peace between the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who seized power last year and the rival anti-Bakala Christian militia.
“Their sex organs and hearts have been removed,” Ousmane Abakar, the Muslim community spokesman, told Reuters news agency on Sunday.
He said the bodies of the boys, from Bangui’s mostly Muslim PK5 neighbourhood, had been taken to a mosque in the capital by the community after the attack. Their ages were not known.
Youths in PK5 barricaded the main road in protest, residents said.
Sebastien Wenezoui, a coordinator of the anti-Balaka, condemned the attacks and said 10 youths had been abducted in the incident by a faction of the group from the Boy-Rabe neighbourhood.
“We do not know where the others are,” Wenezoui said. “We strongly condemn these acts. While we are currently working towards peace, others continue to kill.”
Lazare Djader, president of Collectif Urgence 236, the association working to reconcile the communities, said months of work to bring the youths together had been dealt a heavy blow.
“Because of these deaths, I have zero morale. Several months of efforts are lost. I’m trying to calm everyone down but they are all very angry right now,” Djader said, adding that a non-Muslim youth had also been found killed.
Seleka was forced to relinquish power under international pressure in January and since then, Christian militias known as anti-Balaka have mounted widespread attacks on Muslims.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in the violence in Central African Republic and a million of the country’s 4.5m people have been forced from their homes despite the presence of several thousand African peacekeepers and European Union and French troops.
The UN has warned that the conflict could descend nto genocide.