Militias renew attacks in Central African Republic town


Christian militias in Central African Republic launched several attacks on Bangassou, attempting to seize a cathedral housing displaced Muslims and killing a Moroccan peacekeeper, the United Nations said.

The incidents come after attacks on the same diamond-mining town in May that killed at least 115 people and point to the inability of UN peacekeepers to contain violence in a country where government control barely extends outside the capital.
“The attack took place as peacekeepers from the Moroccan contingent were escorting water trucks to meet humanitarian needs of the town,” Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the 13,000-strong UN mission (MINUSCA), said of the Sunday incident.

Three others were injured, he added, in an attack attributed to anti-balaka fighters drawn from the country’s Christian majority.

Fighters from the same group launched a foiled attack on Friday on the town’s cathedral housing hundreds of displaced Muslims sheltering there since the May killings, Monteiro said.

Like some 500,000 others displaced in the country, many inside the cathedral have nowhere to return to since their homes were destroyed in the May killings.

Thousands died in ethnic and religious conflict that broke out when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

The latest incidents prompted 14 humanitarian workers from six organisations to suspend activities in the town, east of Bangui on the Congolese border, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Reuters.

An official at French medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres, which operates the local hospital, confirmed fresh shootings adding the charity remained present.

Violence escalated since former colonial power France ended its peacekeeping mission in the country last year that once had as many as 2,000 soldiers. It continues despite a peace deal signed between the government and rival factions in Rome last month.