BANGUI (Halbeeg News) – At least 37 people were found dead in a town in restive Central African Republic, the UN said Friday, after clashes between Christian and Muslim-dominated militias that saw a church torched in the latest surge of sectarian violence.
Church sources had previously said a priest was killed in the violence, sparked on Thursday in the central town of Alindao when Christian militiamen, known as anti-balaka, killed Muslims prompting revenge attacks.
The UN on Friday said 37 deaths were confirmed in Alindao, while some 20,000 people were affected by the violence, which forced “thousands” to flee.
“This vicious cycle of repeated attacks against civilians is unacceptable. Civilians want security, peace and a future,” said Najat Rochdi, UN humanitarian coordinator in the CAR.
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One of the world’s poorest nations despite a rich supply of diamonds and uranium, the CAR has struggled to recover from a 2013 civil war that erupted when President Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.
In response, Christians, who account for about 80 per cent of the population, organised vigilante units dubbed “anti-balaka”.
Alindao is a stronghold of the Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) Muslim militia that has its roots in the Seleka group. It has witnessed chronic fighting in recent months that has also killed two UN soldiers and a humanitarian aid worker.
Earlier, Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission Minusca, said that the Christian anti-balaka had killed Muslims and an hour later, “the UPC responded by attacking a camp for displaced people” in Alindao.
The church in Alindao and a part of the camp were burnt.
“Part of the population fled to the bush. Hundreds of displaced people have found shelter at Minusca’s forward operating base” in the region, Monteiro added.
A church source in the capital Bangui said one priest was among those who died in the clashes, while another has been missing since the violence.
Alindao lies on a critical route traversing the south and east of the country and is in the heart of a region numerous gold and diamond mines that have helped fuel the conflict.