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UNHCR is alarmed by the deteriorating security conditions in the Central African Republic and the safety of civilians caught in fighting between ex-Seleka rebels and self-defence forces in the capital Bangui and in the town of Bossangoa, further northwest.
According to UN and media reports, at least 140 civilians were killed during fresh attacks yesterday in Bangui. This is the first major fighting in the capital since March, when Seleka forces captured the city and ousted the government of President Francois Bozize.
Our staff in Bangui say the situation is very tense this morning. Gunfire continues to be heard in the 8th arrondissement preventing residents from leaving their homes. We are hearing worrying reports of sectarian and revenge attacks between neighbours throughout Bangui. A local UNHCR worker was attacked in his home last night and the assailants took away and killed his 24-year-old nephew.
A growing number of people are fleeing across the Oubangui River and seeking shelter in the town of Zongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Yesterday, close to 700 people had crossed and more were arriving this morning. Our colleagues in Zongo are verifying the number of arrivals along the river.
The newly arrived are staying in a school at Gbala, a village located 12 km from Zongo. The school, a former refugee transit centre built by UNHCR, has facilities for receiving refugees.
Meanwhile, heavy shelling yesterday afternoon in the town of Bossangoa caused panic among the residents. Although the shelling has stopped, UNHCR staff in the town say the situation remains tense in the area. An unknown number of people have been displaced.
There are some 40,000 forcibly displaced people in Bossangoa, mostly sheltered in the compound of the Roman Catholic church there. They need support, but the dangerous security conditions are hampering aid delivery. One of our convoys, carrying 60 tons of relief supplies, reached Bossangoa yesterday and will be distributed soon. The aid includes tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, jerry cans, buckets and soap for some 3,000 displaced families in Bossangoa.
Since December 2012, conflict in the CAR has displaced nearly 400,000 people within the country and forced another 69,800 into exile in neighbouring countries, mostly to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For more information on this topic, please contact:In Nairobi: Kitty McKinsey (Regional) on mobile +254 735 337 608 In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 94 84 In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83