As many as 100 people were killed last week in militia violence in southern Central African Republic and fighting fuelled by ethnic and religious rivalries is spreading, the United Nations said.
The violence is a new escalation in a conflict that began in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and ousted then-President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from Christian anti-balaka militias.
Clashes intensified on Monday in Bria, about 300 km from the south-eastern border town Bangassou during the day, forcing about 1,000 civilians to seek shelter near the UN base, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) hospital in Bria received 24 wounded people on Tuesday as fighting continued, Frederic Lai Manantsoa, MSF head of mission in Bangui, said.
Casualty counts have been difficult to confirm because of ongoing violence and remoteness of the locations.
“I don’t know exactly how many but some were wounded and others died,” one Bria resident said.
Meanwhile, the UN mission, MINUSCA, said the situation in Bangassou was “under control” after a weekend attack by Christian militiamen killed nearly 30 people and forced thousands to flee.
In a statement, Dujarric said unverifiable figures indicate up to 100 people may have been killed in three days of clashes from May 7 to 9 in Alindao between anti-balaka fighters and an ex-Seleka group.
Up to 8,500 people were displaced in the fighting, he said, and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs plans to lead an inter-agency fact-finding mission there.
In Bangassou, MINUSCA troops captured strategic sites after air strikes on Monday, the mission said. A total of 26 bodies have been identified after weekend fighting.
“The worst is over,” the mission’s top general, Bala Keïta, told reporters in Bangui. “We are holding the terrain and our men continue search-and-sweep operations.”
According to the UN refugee agency, violence in Bangassou saw an estimated 2,750 refugees flee across the border into Congo over the weekend.
In Bangui, hundreds marched to demand the perpetrators of violent attacks face justice after years of impunity.
“We notice, unfortunately, that violence continues to claim victims,” said Evodie Ndemade, vice president of a victims’ association. “Justice must be done now.”