The clash between the Central African Republic’s Muslim and Christian population continued earlier this week when more than 50 people were killed in a town 236 miles northwest of the nation’s capital, according to a Reuters report.
Witnesses in Bambari said an attack Monday, by an allegedly Christian-dominated militia, led to retaliation by Muslim youths and fighting within the town. A country the size of Texas, Central African Republic (CAR) is no stranger to violence and humanitarian crisis. Just a few weeks ago, WORLD reported that Muslim gunmen rampaged through a Catholic church compound killing up to 30 people with gunfire and grenades.
In 2013, rebel leader Michel Djotodia led an army of Muslim rebels against former CAR President Francois Bozize. Djotodia succeeded in deposing Bozize, but then he lost control of his own followers. His army, mostly extreme Muslims from the north, targeted Christians, pillaged homes, burnt churches, and killed civilians. The government was forced to shut down in January, and more than 1 million civilians fled for safety to neighboring nations.
Christians bore the brunt of violence and persecution in the beginning, thanks to the efforts of now-disbanded rebel group Seleka. But WORLD reported in January that an opposing force, the Anti-Balaka, has since dominated much of the retaliation.
Ibrahim Alawad, a witness to this week’s attack, told Reuters that he counted at least 22 bodies in the village of Liwa after fighting instigated by the Anti-Balaka.
“Some had been cut to pieces, some had their hearts cut out,” he said. “I saw about five children and six women.”
Citing reports from other witnesses, he added: “After that the youth of the Muslim area went there. They killed about 10 Anti-Balaka.”
Currently 5,000 African troops and 2,000 French troops are stationed in CAR. But aside from France, the global community has largely remained uninvolved in the conflict except to provide humanitarian aid, according to Fox News.
The United States announced late Monday it would give another $51 million in humanitarian support to CAR to provide “clean water, food, emergency health services and relief supplies as well as programs to reunite lost family members.”