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Fighting Between Rival Militias in CAR Kills 16, Forces Thousands to Flee

FILE - Seleka rebels walk through the town of Bria, Central African Republic, July 15, 2013. Recent fighting between rival militia groups, some in Bria, has killed 16 people, U.N. peacekeepers said Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.

Fighting between rival militia groups in the Central African Republic has killed 16 people and driven thousands of civilians from their homes, U.N. peacekeepers said Wednesday.

The latest clashes between two former factions (the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic and the Union for Peace in Central Africa) of the Seleka rebel group broke out Monday in the town of Bria.

A United Nations peacekeeping base was targeted before the blue helmets drove the gunmen away. The peacekeepers are patrolling Bria, about 600 kilometers northeast of the capital Bangui, and have bolstered efforts to protect the population.

United Nations offers warning

A spokesman for the U.N. warns that violence against civilians is a grave matter which could be investigated by international tribunals.

Central African Republic is one of the world's poorest nations. Its weak central government is struggling to assert its authority across the entire country, where more than a dozen armed factions are roaming.

A civil war erupted in 2013 when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew Christian President Francois Bozize.

Christian militia groups violently targeted Muslims who took up arms to defend themselves. Both sides are accused of committing atrocities.