Bangui, Central African Republic | AFP | At least two people were killed and 10 injured in new clashes in a flashpoint Muslim area of the Central African Republic (CAR)’s capital, hospital workers said Monday, as several thousand attended ceremonies for Catholics killed last week.
The latest casualties occurred on Sunday in the PK5 district and nearby areas, the sources said. Local residents said they heard automatic weapons fire and several houses had been burned down.
Despite the rise in tension, around 3,000 people, including President Faustin-Archange Touadera and Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji, took part in a funeral ceremony in central Bangui for people killed in an attack on a church on May 1, including a Catholic priest, Albert Tougoumale-Baba.
“The blood of our martyrs will be a pathway to peace, it will not be a sacrifice in vain,” said Sister Monica, a nun who was close to Tougoumale-Baba.
Twenty-four people were killed and more than 170 injured in Bangui on May 1, sparking fears that one of the world’s most unstable countries would plunge once more into a bloody sectarian conflict.
The violence began with a confrontation between security forces and militiamen in the PK5 district.
Armed men then stormed the Fatima church in the middle of a service, killing worshippers and a priest. In response, a mob burned a mosque and lynched two people believed to be Muslim.
One of the world’s poorest countries, the CAR spiralled into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a predominantly Muslim rebel alliance called the Seleka.
Nominally Christian militias called the anti-Balaka emerged in response, accelerating a cycle of sectarian violence.
France intervened militarily from 2013 to 2016 to push out the Seleka, winding down the operation after Touadera was elected president.
Touadera governs today with the support of a large UN peacekeeping operation. But most of the country is controlled by ex-rebels and militias, many of them claiming to act as guardians for the Muslim or Christian communities.