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UN Troops Disperse Protesters in 3rd Day of CAR Clashes

  • Reuters

U.N. peacekeepers fired warning shots in the air to disperse thousands of protestors calling for the rearming of the Central African Republic's national army, as at least one person was killed in a third day of violence.

About 30 people have been killed and dozens more injured in the riverside capital Bangui since the murder of a Muslim man sparked sectarian violence on Saturday in the city patrolled by French and U.N. troops.

Gunshots were heard throughout the city on Monday morning. Businesses were shuttered and many residents stayed at home after clashes continued throughout the night, despite a curfew announced by the interim government.

Thousands of people marked to the center of Bangui, just 100 meters (328 feet) from the presidential palace, to call for a more prominent role for the military.

Northern rebels

The armed forces were sidelined when mostly Muslim northern rebels, known as Seleka, seized power in March 2013.

A U.N. backed interim government has yet to rearm the military after many officers were linked to the anti-balaka Christian militia that carried out brutal reprisals against Muslims.

The worst violence this year in the volatile, landlocked country comes as interim President Catherine Samba-Panza is outside the country at the U.N. General Assembly, sparking fears of an attempt to overturn her government.

Few vehicles were present on the streets, which were blocked by checkpoints manned by anti-balaka fighters.

The U.S. State Department condemned the violence on Monday in a statement that expressed full support for Samba-Panza and her transitional government.

"Those guilty of committing or inciting violence, including leaders of anti-balaka militias and ex-Seleka groups, must be held accountable for their actions," spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Overnight, police headquarters was attacked by the anti-balaka in an assault that stretched from around 10 p.m. local time [2100 GMT] to 3 a.m., injuring two gendarmes, according to the force's deputy director.

"I am extremely worried by the large number of people who have lost their lives in the course of these clashes," said Marc Vandenberghe, the United Nations' interim humanitarian coordinator.

A Reuters journalist saw a young man's corpse lying in the street on Monday. Witnesses said had been killed by mostly Christian anti-balaka forces. Red Cross officials say a death toll is hard to establish as they have been prevented from entering neighborhoods by protesters and armed groups.

Charity pillaged

Private residences and offices for the International Organization for Migration [IOM] and a medical charity were pillaged Sunday afternoon, according to a Reuters witness.

UNICEF said children were deliberately targeted in the unrest, citing the murders of three boys between the ages of 16 and 17 years old, including one who was decapitated.

Central African Republic erupted in violence after Seleka rebels seized power in the majority-Christian country in 2013, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands still displaced.

The country has been led by a transitional government since Jan. 2014, and was expected to vote in presidential polls scheduled for Oct. 18 but now widely expected to be postponed.

Former colonial master France said in a foreign ministry statement that its 900-strong Sangaris mission would continue to support the U.N. mission and the interim government.