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20 Killed in Attack on Funeral in Bangui

People pray next to caskets containing bodies of two men killed by sectarian violence in Muslim neighborhood of Bangui, March 23, 2014.
Officials in the Central African Republic say a grenade attack on a funeral ceremony has killed 20 people and left another 11 wounded.

The attack occurred about 11 p.m. Thursday night local time in Fatima, a Muslim neighborhood of the capital, Bangui.

A witness, Samba Vianney, told VOA French to Africa Service that residents had come together to mourn the death of a neighbor who was killed in fighting over the weekend.

Vianney said there were "loud bursts of gunfire, followed by grenade explosions."

He blamed the attack on members of the anti-balaka militia, whose attacks have prompted tens of thousands of Muslims in the C.A.R. to flee their homes and communities in recent months.

A VOA reporter in Bangui, Bagassi Koura, reports that Fatima remained tense on Friday, adding that sporadic gunshots could be heard, and that a number of barricades were blocking traffic there and in other parts of the city.

The head of the African peacekeeping force in the C.A.R., General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, said this week that his forces will now treat anti-balaka as "enemies."

The anti-balaka — whose name means "machete proof" or invincible — formed last year in response to a wave of killing and looting by mostly Muslim Seleka rebels.

However, Mokoko told a Bangui radio station that the militias will not be treated as self-defense groups.

There are about 6,000 African Union troops in the C.A.R., working alongside 2,000 French troops in efforts to protect civilians and disarm militias.

The peacekeepers have been unable to stop the largely Christian anti-balaka from surrounding and attacking Muslim communities.