At least eight people, including civilians, were killed and 29 injured in the latest bout of growing sectarian unrest in the Central African Republic which has prompted warnings of genocide, the UN said Wednesday.
“Over the past week, there were several reports of clashes” around the central town of Bria, some 450 km north east of the capital Bangui, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
“There are reports of at least eight deaths, including civilians, and 29 injured on recent fighting” on the Bria to Yalinga highway, it added.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the latest violence but Bria was the scene earlier this month of clashes between a majority Muslim rebel group and a predominantly Christian militia, called the anti-Balaka, which left at least 13 people dead.
A UN expert report last year noted Bria lies at “the heart of eastern (diamond) production” and illicit diamond trafficking in the area, as armed groups joust for control of natural resources and greater regional influence.
Central African Republic, a former French colony with a population of 4.5 million and one of the world’s poorest nations, was pitched into a civil war between Christian and Muslim militias in 2013 after President Francois Bozize was overthrown by the Seleka, factions of a rebel coalition.
The latest unrest follows a week after UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien told a closed-door Security Council meeting there are early signs of genocide in the country, according to diplomats.
He has also urged more troops and police to bolster the UN peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn country.
The UN maintains some 12,500 troops and police on the ground to help protect civilians and support the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected last year.
According to O’Brien, there are now some 600,000 displaced people in the country, while he also warned of violence targeting humanitarian actors on the ground, forcing them to drop many of their duties. (Arabnews)