DAKAR — In the north central Central African Republic, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says several thousand civilians have fled into the bush following fighting between anti-balaka militia and African Union peacekeepers.
Doctors Without Borders says 7,000 civilians fled the northern town of Boguila after fighting broke out there late Friday and continued into Saturday.
The aid agency, known by its French acronym MSF, says AU peacekeepers were escorting a convoy of 540 Muslims from Bossangoa to Chad. The convoy had just passed through Boguila when MSF says it appears it was attacked by anti-balaka militia.
The militia have been targeting Muslim civilians since inter-communal violence broke out in December and the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition pulled back to the north.
MSF says it treated at least three wounded at its hospitals in Boguila and nearby Paoua, but fears there may be more. Medical staff could not access the combat zone.
MSF spokesman in the C.A.R., Mathieu Fortoul, says they are worried civilians in the convoy were also hit. He says the convoy was headed to the refugee camp in Gore, Chad so they are working with their teams there to evaluate the situation.
MSF says Boguila is a "particularly unstable" part of the country and bouts of fighting between armed groups there regularly force civilians into the bush.
Fortoul says this raises a number of risks, in particular poor sanitation conditions. He says the rainy season is underway, when malaria cases typically spike. He says displaced people are very exposed to the disease, which is the number one cause of death in the country.
The 540 Muslims fleeing Bossangoa were the last Muslims in that town. They were being evacuated after months of living under constant threat from the anti-balaka.
The Chadian MISCA troops escorting them were also on their way out of the country.
During the past week, Chad has pulled its peacekeepers from northern towns like Bouca and Kaga Bandoro. Earlier this month Chad said it would be withdrawing from the AU peacekeeping force, after what it said was excessive criticism.
MISCA troops from Gabon and Congo have begun taking their place in some of those towns.