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Nine killed in further Central African Republic fighting

Source: Reuters - Mon, 24 Mar 2014 19:02 GMT
Author: Reuters
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People pray next to caskets containing the bodies of two men killed by sectarian violence in the Muslim neighbourhood of Kilometre 5 (PK5) in the capital Bangui March 23, 2014. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola
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BANGUI, March 24 (Reuters) - At least nine people died in new clashes over the weekend and on Monday in Central African Republic's capital, Red Cross officials said, as the country marked a year since a rebellion and coup plunged it into chaos.

Thousands have been killed since the Seleka, a coalition of mostly Muslim northern rebels, seized power a year ago and launched a campaign of looting, torture and killing that has triggered a wave of reprisals by the 'anti-Balaka' militia.

"Yesterday, we collected six bodies. Today, we have recorded three killed and the violence is ongoing," said Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the local Red Cross.

Mbao Bogo added that 28 people were killed and 27 were wounded during clashes the previous week.

France has deployed 2,000 troops to its former colony to support a 6,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA) but they have been unable to stamp out the violence in the large, sparsely populated nation of 4.5 million people.

The United Nations estimates some 650,000 people have been displaced within Central African Republic, while nearly 300,000 have fled to neighbouring states.

While large scale massacres appeared to have stopped, thanks largely to the foreign troops, killings continue on a daily basis, mostly by the anti-balaka militia targeting former Seleka rebels and Muslims.

The attacks have driven tens of thousands of Muslims from Bangui, the south and west of the landlocked country.

The fighting on Sunday and Monday was concentrated around the northern Muslim neighbourhoods of PK5 and PK12 which were attacked by anti-balaka fighters, a Reuters reporter in the capital said.

African Union troops also came under attack when they tried to intervene.

A spokesman for the African Union MISCA forces was not immediately available for comment. The organisation said in a statement earlier that three of its staff were wounded after coming under attack from unknown assailants on Sunday night.

In a separate incident, two peacekeepers providing security at a Bangui hospital also came under grenade attack on Sunday but no serious injuries were reported, the statement said.

(Reporting by Serge Leger Kokpakpa; Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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