BANGUI : At least 22 people were killed in clashes between rival anti-balaka and Seleka militias in the Central African Republic this week, African peacekeepers said on Friday.
‘People claiming to be members of anti-balaka entered the town on Wednesday and starting shooting in the direction of the bases of former Seleka, triggering a riposte,’ an officer from the Misca peacekeeping force said of the fighting in the northwestern town of Batangafo. He told AFP that most of the victims were civilians and that there were also several dozen people injured.
Locals had fled ‘en masse to take refuge in a local hospital at the Misca base’, the officer said, but added that a a relative calm had returned to the town by Friday morning. ‘We don’t know what led the anti-balaka to provoke these clashes,’ local resident Paul Ngaimbe told AFP.
Batangafo lies in the district of Ouham, home of former president Francois Bozize, who was overthrown by the Seleka rebels in March 2013. The mostly Muslim Seleka carried out a campaign of violence against the majority Christian community in the following months, prompting the creation of the anti-balaka militia. Clashes between the two groups have plunged the country into a cycle of brutal sectarian violence that has left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, with almost the entire Muslim community abandoning the capital and other parts of the country. Under pressure from international peacekeepers, representatives of the anti-balaka and Seleka signed a ceasefire on June 23, although it has been met with widespread scepticism by civilians and analysts.