Militia infighting in Central African Republic (CAR) killed 40 people over the weekend and forced hundreds from their homes, local authorities said.
The bloodshed was some of the worst since armed groups agreed a peace deal last February. That was meant to bring stability to a country rocked by violence since 2013, when Muslim rebels in the Seleka alliance ousted the then president, prompting reprisals from Christian militia.
The clashes on Saturday in Bria were between different ethnic factions of the ex-Seleka armed group FPRC, according to the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA.
Thirty-eight were killed based on a body count at the local hospital. The death toll could be closer to 50, said regional prefect Evariste Binguinendji.
“Families started burying their dead, so it’s difficult to get an accurate figure,” Binguinendji told Reuters.
The president of Red Cross in CAR, Antoine Mbao Bogo, said 41 were killed.
The situation in Bria has been calm since Sunday, when MINUSCA peacekeepers were deployed, said mission spokesman Vladimir Monteiro.
The presence of rival factions in Bria, a diamond-mining hub, made the town a regular flashpoint for violence before the latest peace deal was agreed.
Commenting on the FPRC infighting, FPRC spokesman Aboubacar Ali Sidik said there was no split. “There are problems, as there are in families. We always find a solution.”
Thousands died in unrest in the diamond and gold-producing country and 20% of the 4.5 million population fled their homes.
Government and rebels expressed optimism when the peace accord was signed, but lasting peace is not guaranteed: similar agreements in 2014, 2015 and 2017 all broke down.