Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Muslims denied bid to flee C. African Republic capital

BANGUI, Central African Republic - Thousands of Muslims who tried to flee the violence in Central African Republic's capital were turned back by peacekeepers Friday, as crowds of angry Christians shouted, "We're going to kill you all!"

The convoy was turned back as France announced it would send 400 more soldiers to its former colony mired in unprecedented sectarian fighting.

The U.N. chief, meanwhile, warned Friday that "the very fabric of society, woven over generations, is being ripped apart" in Central African Republic.

"We must live up to the promises made around this table to act swiftly and robustly in the face of such bloodshed," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Friday.

In Bangui, some cars carried as many as 10 people as the convoy made its way through the capital, the second such mass exodus in a week. Christians gathered alongside the road to taunt the Muslims, many of whom have been targeted by murderous mobs in recent weeks.

But the convoy, which stretched as far as the eye could see, was turned back because peacekeepers feared it would be attacked when going through some volatile parts of Bangui.

The vehicles were halted in the Miskine neighborhood, where one tumbled into a ditch. On the orders of a Burundian captain, African peacekeepers went vehicle-to-vehicle instructing everyone to return to a local mosque, according to an Associated Press journalist.

Peacekeepers stopped the group before it passed through neighborhoods where fresh fighting had erupted Friday. At least one person was killed there in a grenade attack by Christian militiamen, according to witnesses at a nearby mosque.

French peacekeepers had to evacuate two other severely wounded people from an angry crowd that set tires on fire and was shouting anti-Muslim and anti-French slogans.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled for their lives as Christian militiamen and crowds of civilians have stepped up their attacks in recent weeks. Muslims have been killed by mobs almost every day and their bodies have been mutilated and dragged through the capital's streets, despite the presence of peacekeepers.

Victims have been accused of supporting the Muslim Seleka government that was forced from power last month. The Seleka rebels cited economic and political grievances, not religious ideology, in overthrowing the president of a decade. However, they became deeply despised and their armed fighters are accused of scores of human-rights abuses against the country's Christian majority during their 10-month rule.

The violence against Muslims and their current exodus from Central African Republic is tantamount to "ethnic cleansing," according to warnings issued this week by a top U.N. official and Amnesty International.

The head of the French mission in Central African Republic has called the Christian militiamen "enemies of the peace," even though they started out as a way to protect Christians against the attacks by Muslim rebels.

Before the crisis, Muslims made up about 15 percent of Central African Republic's 4.6 million people. Most of the displaced Muslims have headed to neighboring Chad, which is predominantly Muslim and whose military has provided armed guards for departing convoys.

Jerome Delay and Krista Larson Associated Press
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