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Outgunned Muslim Troops in CAR Plead for Weapons

FILE - Muslims who fled the PK5 district are returning home to the PK5 district only to find their homes in ruins, Bangui, CAR, Oct. 2, 2014. (Katarina Hoije/VOA)

Muslim soldiers in the Central African Republic's army are calling for more arms and ammunition to protect their home community in Bangui from a local militia. Residents of the area tell VOA they want the soldiers to be better equipped.

The biggest market area in Bangui, known as the PK5 district, is where the few Muslims left in the capital after the ethnic violence of the past three years are now living.

There was fighting around here in September, but since then the violence has subsided.

Since the Pope came here in November, says this Muslim trader Mahamat Abdou, it’s been calm. People can walk around and go into town and come back without problems.

For most of the past two years it was too dangerous for Muslims to leave PK5 and Abdou says there are still areas they stay away from.

Outside PK5, Muslims faced the threat of the largely Christian anti-balaka militia. Inside PK5, there was and still is a Muslim militia - not the Seleka, which overthrew the government three years ago, but a purely local group that effectively seized control of the district.

Another trader, Ahmad Idriss, told VOA security has improved since the C.A.R.'s army deployed a company of Muslim soldiers who come from PK5 to their home area two months ago.

"We traders feel secure since the soldiers came, but the government should reinforce them and give them more arms as they have hardly anything," said Idriss.

The soldiers don’t extort money, he added, and since they came the militia don’t either.

One of these Muslim soldiers told VOA privately that his unit has only a handful of rifles and has repeatedly come under fire from the heavily armed Muslim militia, who have backing from senior politicians.

However, the United Nations mission MINUSCA is supporting them, he said, and recently deployed Egyptian troops to the area.

Currently there seems to be an armed truce between the militia and other security forces in the PK5 district. The truce could break down when the government changes, after the elections slated for later this month.