News / Africa

CAR Fighters Attack Church Sheltering Civilians

FILE - People walk on a main street in Bambari, Central African Republic, May 25, 2014.
FILE - People walk on a main street in Bambari, Central African Republic, May 25, 2014.
Reuters

Rebel fighters and armed Muslim civilians killed “many” people in an attack on a church compound in the Central African Republic on Monday where thousands of civilians had taken refuge, Catholic Church officials said.

The attack in Bambari, 380 km (236 miles) northwest of the capital Bangui, came just a day before French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was due to visit the town, where a grenade attack injured seven French soldiers last week.

Church officials said fighters from the Seleka rebel movement and armed civilians from the town's Muslim community entered St. Joseph's Cathedral around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT).

“We don't have the exact death toll yet, but many people have been killed. As I'm speaking to you, they are still there,” the Rev. Jesus Martial Dembele, vicar general for the archdiocese of Bangui, told Reuters.

Between 4,000 and 6,000 mainly Christian civilians live at the cathedral, church officials said.

The Rev. Firmin Gbagoua, a priest at the cathedral, said the attackers believed that Christian militia fighters, known as anti-balaka or anti-machete, were based inside.

“They came in. They are killing people,” a nun inside the compound told Reuters during the attack before quickly hanging up the phone. Further attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

Bambari is home to Seleka's military headquarters.

A Seleka official told Reuters the group had been attacked by anti-balaka fighters in a majority Muslim neighborhood. One Muslim civilian was killed in the clash, he said.

“All we did was retaliate,” said Ahmat Negad, one of the group's spokesmen in Bambari.

The Catholic Church's Dembele accused the French forces of not stepping in to prevent the attack.

However, a French military spokesman said French troops had intervened around 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) and took up positions between a mainly Muslim crowd including Seleka fighters and a large group of Christians when they came under small arms fire.

“We immediately returned fire and in all likelihood inflicted losses on that group,” the military spokesman, Gilles Jaron, said. He declined to say by which group he believed the shots had been fired.

“Currently we are present around the bishopric to protect that population,” he said.

A resident of Bambari said a French military helicopter was flying over the town by late afternoon.

Along a Fault Line

“To avoid clashes between groups that seek only hatred and vengeance, these groups must accept a peace process, accept a ceasefire,” Le Drian, the French defense minister, who arrived in Bangui on Monday, said in reference to the worsening violence in Bambari.

Bambari sits on a fault line that has emerged across the country, where over a year of violence has killed thousands, forced a million from their homes and sent most Muslims fleeing into northern zones closer to Chad and Sudan.

At least 22 people were killed there in fighting last month.

The violence stems back to the takeover of the majority Christian country last year by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group, whose time in power was marked by a string of rights abuses that spawned the Christian militia.

Seleka stepped down earlier this year under intense international pressure. But a weak interim government has failed to stamp its authority on the country and violence continues despite the presence of about 6,000 African Union peacekeepers and 2,000 French soldiers.

French soldiers also make up part of a European Union military force deployed in the capital.

In addition to the seven French soldiers injured in Bambari on Thursday, three others were injured in another grenade attack in Bangui the following day as they were assisting Central African forces attempting to arrest the leaders of armed groups. 

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid