At least 22 people – including 15 local chiefs and three members of the Doctors Without Borders (Médécins Sans Frontières, or MSF) medical charity – were killed in an attack on a town in the Central African Republic, officials said Sunday.
The Saturday attack took place in Nanga Boguila, about 450 kms (280 miles) north of the capital, Bangui.
Gilles Xavier Nguembassa, a former member of parliament for the area, said four people were killed as the assailants approached the town but most died when Seleka rebels went to an MSF-run health clinic in search of money.
The attack took place while local chiefs were holding a meeting in the building and the gunmen opened fire when some of the chiefs tried to run away, he said.
“Fifteen of the local chiefs were killed on the spot,” he told Reuters, citing witnesses. A local representative of the Bangui government confirmed the incident.
A spokesman for MSF confirmed the deaths of its staff but gave no further details.
Seleka officials were not immediately available for comment.
The impoverished country slipped into chaos last year after the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels deposed president François Bozizé in a March coup. The Seleka officially disbanded after seizing power, but some former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting, prompting communities in the Christian-majority nation to form vigilante "anti-balaka" militias, some of which are now seeking revenge on the country's Muslim minority and fuelling inter-religious violence.
Seleka leaders stepped down in January under intense international pressure but the peacekeepers and a weak interim government have failed to stamp their authority on the country, which has seen little but political instability and conflict since independence from France in 1960.
Underscoring the depth of the crisis, peacekeepers escorted around 1,300 Muslims out of Bangui on Sunday, triggering looting and removing one of the last pockets of Muslims from the capital, deepening Muslim-Christian divisions.
Around a million people have fled their homes during the crisis.
In an interview with FRANCE 24 in February, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Muslims in the Central African Republic were facing “ethno-religious cleansing”.
Some 2,000 French and more than 5,000 African peacekeepers are struggling to halt waves of violence that have gripped the country over the last 18 months.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-28