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Central African Republic Violence Leaves at Least 5 Dead

Map of Central African Republic
Map of Central African Republic

Militia members stormed a health center in the Central African Republic's capital seeking to kill the wounded after renewed violence left at least five people dead, including a pastor, authorities said Wednesday.

The fighting centered Tuesday on Bangui's PK5 neighborhood, long a flashpoint for tensions between Muslim and Christian fighters, even as security has improved in recent months.

More than two dozen wounded were brought to a local health facility, according to Dr. Michel Yao, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the country and the World Health Organization representative.

"Armed elements forcefully entered into the facility with the intention to kill some of the injured," he said Wednesday.

The violence was sparked by a military operation in which U.N. and Central African forces sought to interrogate local militia leader Youssouf Sy, also known as Big Man. Security forces said they were fired upon and returned fire, killing Sy and one of his associates.

At least two churches were set ablaze in retaliation by Sy's followers. Among the victims was a pastor, Jean Paul Sankagui, according to Awadal Karim Mahamat, imam of the Ali Babolo mosque in PK5.

"We launch an appeal for calm. We remind people to respect the role of the security forces,'' said Jean-Serge Bokassa, minister of public security.

Central African Republic exploded into violence in late 2013 as anger mounted against a Muslim rebel leader who had seized power by force. The backlash against Muslim civilians forced most of Bangui's Muslims to flee north or to neighboring Chad and Cameroon.

The country held mostly peaceful democratic elections a year ago. However, armed militias persist not only in the largely ungoverned north but also in pockets of Bangui, threatening to undermine recent progress.