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CAR Leader Leaves UN Early Due to Violence at Home

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, shakes hands with the head of state of the transitional government of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza ahead of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 20

The interim leader of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, left early from the United Nations General Assembly to return home because of violence plaguing the capital of her country.

Reports from Bangui said dozens of people have been killed in three days of clashes involving Christians and Muslims, sparked by the death of a Muslim man.

On Monday evening, hundreds of prisoners escaped from the main prison in the capital. Earlier in the day, at least three people died when protestors gathered in downtown Bangui to march on the presidential palace.

Protestors blamed U.N. peacekeepers for shooting into the crowd, but the U.N. peacekeeping force, MINUSCA, denied that its troops opened fire on protestors. "MINUSCA did not open fire on the population," the organization tweeted Monday.

The United States condemned the unrest in C.A.R. and pledged its support for Samba-Panza's government. "We fully support the efforts of the Central African and international forces to re-establish order and bring these perpetrators to justice," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

In a statement Monday, Amnesty International's regional director for West and Central Africa, Alioune Tine said, "The deadly violence in the capital illustrates that C.A.R. remains in a very fragile state and that immediate action must be taken to enhance the capacity of U.N. peacekeepers to detect and respond effectively to such incidents before escalation of attacks on civilians.''

Amnesty said civilians have started to flee the fighting in Bangui and said the offices of at least three aid organizations in the city have been looted.

Central African Republic erupted in violence in 2013 when Muslim rebels seized Bangui, leading to often brutal attacks and reprisals between rival Christian and Muslim militias.

The country has been led by a transitional government since last year and elections are scheduled for October 18, but are widely expected to be postponed.