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CAR - Making Boko Haram And Shabab Relevant for The Africans? Muslims Burnt in CAR Bangui Streets: Christian Militias Slaughter CAR Muslims Muslim Women, Children Killed in CAR Bangui Imam Vows to Stay in CAR

'Ethnic cleansing' taking place in Central Africa: Amnesty

 
Black Crusade Militias Invade Second City In Central Africa

BERBÉRATI - The Christian extremists came in waves, first a small group, then larger and increasingly violent forces, until Berberati, the second city in the Central African Republic, had been completely invaded.

Mayor Albert Nakombo described his town of some 50,000 people, located more than 600 kilometres (370 miles) southeast of the capital Bangui, as "peaceful up until now" and "proud of its tradition of hospitality".

The town was occupied for more than a year by mainly Muslim fighters of the Seleka rebellion who put Michel Djotodia in power last March.

Berberati was spared by the Seleka forces when Djotodia was forced to step down by his regional peers in January for failing to halt the violence.

"There were a lot of them, but they left the town without doing any harm," Nakombo said. "We gave a big sigh of relief."

Then, a few days after the ex-rebels pulled out, on Saturday February 8, the first "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) group of vengeful Christians arrived in town. "This phenomenon had never existed in our region," the mayor said.

Formed early in the 1990s in northwestern CAR to fight, Christian militias forces took up arms again last summer to attack civilians of the Muslim minority, accused of siding with the Seleka fighters.

Across the poor and landlocked country, a brutal surge of killings, mutilations, rapes and pillage has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their towns and villages. Entire Muslim communities have fled.

'Sectarian cleansing'

Amid international warnings of "mass atrocities and sectarian cleansing", summed up Friday in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, African nations and France have deployed more than 7,000 troops, due to be backed by European Union peacekeepers.

In Berberati, the anti-balaka came first from the north and then the east. "There were several hundred of them," said Father Thomas Isaie, the priest at the Saint Basile church situated in the town's main Muslim district, Loumi.

"On the Monday, they started to search the homes of Muslims. I prevented them from getting hold of the mosque. I said 'No, this is sacred.' During the day, another wave arrived, armed, more threatening and more vindictive and they began systematic destruction," the priest said.

Isaie added that about 100 Muslims were killed, while other residents spoke of 15 dead.

"What happened here was planned," the mayor declared. Among the militiamen, there were many renegade soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), who had been beaten last year by the Seleka, according to witnesses.

Coming from the Bossangoa region to the northwest and also from neighbouring Cameroon, these insurgents include supporters of ousted president Francois Bozize who ruled 2003-2013, said Mamadou Achirou, a representative of the Muslim community.

More than 500 Muslims have taken refuge, protected by a few Congolese soldiers from the African Union's MISCA peacekeeping force. Laundry lay on the grass to dry, men huddled under a frangipani tree to chat, and children laughed as the troops passed by.

'Prove that they are Christians'

Last Wednesday, about 150 French paratroopers arrived in Berberati as a scout force before the deployment of other units from France's Operation Sangaris military mission and of more MISCA troops.

"Sangaris is here but we need to take action," Mayor Nakombo said. "These people who have invaded us are wandering around town and mocking the population. We must put an end to that."

"Now they say they want to cooperate with the authorities, but that's a diversion," argued Father Isaie, though he acknowledged that "most of the anti-balaka" withdrew from the town when the French troops arrived.

"Looting and threats against Muslims are still taking place," he added.

"Parishioners are asking me for baptismal cards to prove that they are Christians. Are we going to accept that?" the priest asked on Sunday during a meeting attended by General Francisco Soriano, commander of Operation Sangaris.

A few moments before the meeting, a hand grenade exploded at one entrance to Berberati, seriously wounding three people.

"Be careful," a nun named Sister Benedicte warned the French general. "In the districts, I listen to young unemployed people and youths who are suffering. Many support the anti-balaka."

"The population needs to understand that those people have not come to protect them," Soriano replied. "They are here to help themselves and bring disaster. We must stop them. The Seleka have gone. We must not allow others to take their place."

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
Central African Republic Religious Leaders Appeal For Calm

BANGUI – Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Central African Republic have sent a new call for calm in the strife-torn country, saying that militia men should disarm or be disarmed, Agence France Press (AFP) reported.

"Let all our brothers who are carrying weapons hand them over," Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the archbishop and imam of Bangui, said on Friday, February 21.

"The soldiers should disarm everyone, in churches and in mosques."

Nzapalainga was speaking in a joint press conference with Bangui imam, Oumar Kobine Layama, held on Friday.

During their meeting, both leaders sent a joint appeal to stop the looting and sectarian violence that has displaced close to a quarter of CAR total population in a year.

Their appeal followed a call by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's on Thursday for 3,000 extra troops to be dispatched to the country.

"Armed people have been infiltrating places of worship, including mosques," Layama said, urging the population to support international disarmament efforts.

The call of the two religious leaders is not the first since unrest erupted in CAR.

Yet, their appeals have gone largely unheeded in recent months as rights groups warned that ethnic cleansing against the Muslim minority was ongoing.

CAR, a mineral-rich, landlocked country, descended into anarchy in March of last year when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.

Over the past weeks, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties.

Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.

Two cases of cannibalism have been reported too, one of which appeared on the BBC, showing a Christian man chewing the flesh of a Muslim driver killed by Christian mobs.

The escalating violence forced thousands of terrified civilian Muslims to flee for their lives to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.

The violence is forcing thousands to flee the country, with the UN's refugee agency reporting that 28,000 had crossed in Cameroon alone since the start of February.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
Central African Republic Mass massacre of Muslims. Christians stage bloody orgy in country

Imam of the Central African Republic capital Bangui told about the terrible atrocities happening to Muslims in the country.

"I don't want to leave Bangui, I want to be the last Central African Muslim to leave the country or at least the last Muslim to be buried here", imam said in an interview with BBC News, whose name was not disclosed for security reasons.

"This country is the last resting place of both my father and mother".

In recent weeks, thousands of Muslims were forced to hastily leave their homes in the capital of the CAR, fearing reprisals. Media reported that when a Muslim fell from the truck, he was grabbed by the enraged Christian militants and literally torn to pieces while alive, remains of his body scattered on the road.

"The anti-balaka vigilantes have been targeting us, he said. - They've burned most of the mosques in the capital, only a handful of mosques remain untouched in our neighbourhood".

Despite the fact that Muslims leave the country and seek refuge in neighbouring countries, the imam refuses to leave his homeland and is willing to die in the land of his ancestors.

"I'll be the last Muslim in CAR. If they want to kill us in Kilometre 5, our neighbourhood, so be it - we have no weapons but are ready to accept our fate because we believe in Allah and we are confident that Allah will protect us".

"It's fine if you are called John, Peter, Mary or Martin but things get ugly when you first name is Mohammed, Ousmane or Ibrahim - chances are you will end up in a hit list".

Agencies

 
Christian threats force Muslim convoy to turn back in CAR exodus

theguardian

Peacekeepers prevent crammed cars from leaving Bangui for fear of attack, and evidence emerges of village massacre

Thousands of Muslims tried to flee the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) on Friday, only for their mass convoy of cars and trucks to be turned back as crowds of angry Christians taunted: "We're going to kill you all."

The drama unfolded as Amnesty International said it had uncovered evidence of a fresh massacre in a village where the sole surviving Muslim was an orphaned girl aged about 11, and France said it would send an extra 400 peacekeeping troops.

Some cars were crammed with as many as 10 people as the convoy made its way through Bangui, the second such attempt to escape in a week, the Associated Press reported.

Christians gathered along the road to shout abuse and threats.

The convoy was turned back because African peacekeepers feared it would come under attack in some volatile parts of Bangui. The desperate procession was halted in the Miskine neighbourhood, where one vehicle tumbled into a ditch on the side of the road.

On the orders of a Burundian captain, the peacekeepers went from vehicle to vehicle instructing everyone to return to a local mosque, according to an AP journalist at the scene.

Lieutenant Rosana Nsengimana, of the African peacekeeping force known as Misca, said: "The convoy escorted by Burundian forces returned to its departure point because of a problem in a neighbourhood on the north end of the city where the Muslims would have had to pass through."

The neighbourhood in question witnessed fresh fighting on Friday with at least one person killed in a grenade attack by Christian militiamen, according to witnesses at a nearby mosque. French peacekeepers had to rescue two other severely injured people from an baying crowd that had set tyres on fire and was shouting anti-Muslim and anti-French slogans.

Muslims have increasingly been targeted by Christians who took up arms against a mostly Muslim rebel group known as the Seleka, which seized power in a coup a year ago, committing scores of atrocities along the way. The Christian militias, known as the anti-balaka, seem intent on what they perceive as vengeance.

Amnesty has warned that a campaign of ethnic cleansing is causing a Muslim exodus. On Friday Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty, described the scene at a village in the north-west of the country.

"We saw bodies littering the streets," she said. "Several of them had been partially burned. Others had been partly eaten by dogs and other animals. One was the body of a little baby who could not have been more than seven or eight months old. We saw more than 20 bodies but we think that there were several more.

She continued: "All the houses of the Muslim population had been burned or looted and in one of the houses I found a little girl of about 11. She was the only Muslim survivor of the village: the others had either fled or been killed. She was crouching in a corner. She had been hiding there since the day of the massacre. She had not eaten or drunk anything. She was terrified and could not stand at all.

Several Newsoutlets

 
UN chief wants 3,000 more troops for Central African Republic

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday appealed to the international community to urgently send another 3,000 troops and police to Central African Republic in an effort to stop violence between Christians and Muslims that threatens to spiral into genocide.
Ban told the UN Security Council he would report shortly to the 15-member body with a recommendation for a UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate to protect civilians and promote stability in the landlocked former French colony.

"But the deployment of a peacekeeping operation, if authorized, will take months. The people of the Central African Republic do not have months to wait," he said. "The international community must act decisively now."

"The security requirements far exceed the capabilities of the number of international troops now deployed," Ban said. "I call for the rapid reinforcement of the African Union and French troops now on the ground with additional deployments of at least 3,000 more troops and police."

The additional troops, which Ban said needed to be deployed within weeks equipped with air mobility, would increase the international force to 12,000. The force would bridge a gap of up to six months until a UN peacekeeping force - if approved by the Security Council - could be established in the country.

The European Union is already due to deploy 1,000 troops to join 6,000 African Union peacekeepers and almost 2,000 French soldiers, who have struggled to stop the fighting sparked when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power a year ago in the majority Christian state.

"I am grateful for these commitments. But more are needed, quickly, and the wider international community must share the burden," said Ban, who also proposed that the international troops all be brought under a coordinated command.

He said the force should focus on: "Containing the violence, protecting civilians, preventing further displacements, creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and laying the groundwork for the handover to a United Nations peacekeeping force as soon as possible."

Ban, who has said he is gravely concerned the violence could spiral into genocide, warned that a "de facto partition" of the country was setting in. Almost 1 million people, or a quarter of the population, have been displaced by fighting.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
Muslim Scholars Slam CAR Massacres

With all eyes fixed on terrible massacres committed against Central African Republic Muslims, a leading international Muslim organization has urged the international community to take immediate procedures to end ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the strife-torn country.

"The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has been following with great concern reports of continued displacement of thousands of Muslims from the Central African Republic to Chad and Cameroon, to escape the ethnic violence, brutality and serious crimes by Christian militias," the Union said in a statement issued last weekend and obtained by Onislam.net.

These crimes included, "killing Muslims in the streets, burning their bodies, expelling them from their homes, and destroying their properties with mute response from the world community."

The Union's strong statement followed report about killing and torturing scores of Muslims in Central African Republic over the past weeks.

CAR, a mineral-rich, landlocked country, descended into anarchy in March of last year when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.

Over the past weeks, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties.

Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.

Two cases of cannibalism have been reported too, one of which appeared on the BBC, showing a Christian man chewing the flesh of a Muslim driver killed by Christian mobs.

The escalating violence forced thousands of terrified civilian Muslims to flee for their lives to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.

Stop Ethnic Cleansing

Urging an immediate action to stop atrocities committed against CAR Muslims, the IUMS called on the international community to stop "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims.

"The Union urges the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the African Union, the UN and international civil rights and humanitarian organizations to exert more efforts to protect the oppressed Muslims from extremists' attacks, mass murder in CAR, and following criminals in Anti-Balaka militias to bring them to the courts of crimes against humanity," IUMS said.

"The Union also calls on relief organizations to lend a helping hand to those in distress as per the Islamic and humanitarian duty," the statement said.

Commenting on CAR strife, Amnesty International issued a report last week, warning that Anti-Balaka fighters in the Central African Republic were trying to "ethnically cleanse Muslims".

The human rights organization has also accused French peacekeeping forces of failing to protect the threatened Muslim minority.

Seeking a way out of the crisis, the union urged CAR Christians and Muslims to maintain principals of tolerance and peaceful coexistence required in Islam and Christianity.

"The union calls on Christians and Muslims to return to dialogue and reconciliation in which the IUMS is ready to contribute," the statement added.

Agencies

 
Chad says UN force needed to stabilize Central African Republic

Chad's President Idriss Deby has called for the creation of a UN peacekeeping mission to contain violence in Central African Republic, the first time the region's military heavyweight has publicly sought UN intervention.
Deby also warned that the country, his neighbor, risked partition if there were no talks with the mainly Muslim Seleka force that seized power last year but stepped aside under intense international pressure in January, retreating to their northern rear bases.

The former French colony has been gripped by chaos since Seleka, a loose coalition of northern rebels mixed with foreign mercenaries, launched an uprising in late 2012.

Thousands have died and around 1 million people, a quarter of the country's population, have fled cycles of violence that continue even though there are now 5,000 African and another 1,600 French peacekeeping troops deployed on the ground.

The rebel retreat has led to Muslims fleeing the south and warnings from a top UN official of "ethnic-religious cleansing."

Speaking late on Monday, Deby said the French and African forces could not alone secure a country that is the size of France. "We need more men, more assets. Only the UN can provide this. We need to move to a UN force," he said.

Regional leaders have previously called for the French-backed African force to be given more time to stabilise the situation, despite pressure from Paris and human rights groups for a fully fledged UN peacekeeping mission.

The European Union has pledged to send up to 1,000 troops to Central African Republic and UN chief Ban Ki-moon is due to report shortly on the possibility of a UN mission.

Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of Republic of Congo, another regional power broker, told France's Le Figaro newspaper 10,000 peacekeepers were needed.

In unusually strong comments towards the world body, Joanne Liu, head of medical aid agency MSF International, said the United Nations had so far failed to protect the people of Central African Republic.

"Right now the cycle of violence is completely out of control. There's no order. It's total, total chaos," Liu told reporters in Geneva. "The basic protection of the population is not happening."

Seleka fighters ousted President Francois Bozize in March last year but their time in power was marked by killings and abuses, leading to the establishment of mainly Christian self defense militia, known as "anti-balaka."

Attacks on civilians by these fighters since Seleka quit power has forced thousands of Muslims to flee in convoys to the north or neighboring countries. This exodus of traders has pushed food markets to the brink of collapse.

Reflecting the chaos, Liu said MSF was now the biggest employer in the country. It has 2,070 local and 240 international staff there.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos is on a visit to the country, which remains "in the midst of a full-blown humanitarian crisis," a UN statement about her trip said.

Violence in the capital, Bangui, has delayed the deployment of French troops elsewhere to halt inter-communal attacks. However, in recent days, they have deployed to the west as part of efforts to control the main roads.

Rwandan peacekeepers escorting one convoy said they killed four "anti-balaka" gunmen who opened fire on civilians near the border with Cameroon late on Sunday.

Currently visiting Chad, Central African Republic's Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza conceded that she was not able to guarantee the security of Muslims in her country but said she hoped they would one day return.

"We cannot accept the partition of the country," Deby said after meeting Samba-Panza. "There has to be talks with Seleka ... so they can return."

French officials say they underestimated the scale of the inter-communal hatred they found once they deployed troops.

Experts say the origins of the crisis lie as much in a battle for control over resources in one of Africa's weakest-governed states, split along ethnic fault lines and worsened by foreign meddling, as they do in religion.

Paris announced last week an extra 400 troops would be sent and the French mission would last longer than the expected six month timeframe given when launched in December.

France's Jeune Afrique said Samba-Panza told visiting French members of parliament that she wanted French troops to remain in her country until at least early 2015.

Agencies

 
EU plans to deploy 1,000 troops in CAR

The European Union plans to send around 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic to help restore order, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday.

Earlier estimates had the bloc sending about 500 troops. "We have more than 500 troops," Ashton said, adding that the European Union was "looking at double that number."

Meanwhile, 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 in Central African Republic "the very fabric of society, woven over generations, is being ripped apart."

"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. "We cannot claim to care about mass atrocity crimes and then shrink from what it means to actually prevent them."

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 procession of vehicles was halted in the Miskine neighborhood, where one vehicle tumbled into a ditch on the side of the road. 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 at the scene.

Peacekeepers stopped the group before they 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 had 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 angry 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 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 earlier this week by a top United Nations official and Amnesty International. The head of the French mission in Central African Republic has called the Christian militiamen an "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 Chad, a neighboring country that is predominantly Muslim and whose military has provided armed guards for departing convoys.

Outside the capital, an untold number of other Muslims have been slain. Amnesty International on Friday said its researchers found an 11-year-old girl alive among scores of bodies in a remote village west of the capital. Her parents were among the 20 people slain in an attack there that took place several days ago, the rights group said.

"The girl was crouching in a corner in an abandoned, ransacked house," said Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response Adviser at Amnesty International. "She was terrified and could barely speak. She had been hiding there since the massacre, four days before."

Other Muslims remain in hiding in other communities under the control of Christian militiamen, some seeking refuge inside churches offering protection. Nearly 1,000 people - mostly Muslims - are under threat in the southwestern town of Carnot, said Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders.

"Armed men have announced that they intend to track down and kill all the city's Muslims," the organization warned Thursday. "Anyone who hides Muslims is also at risk."

The organization said Christian militiamen had invaded hospitals in search of Muslims who had sought treatment and refuge. In another attack, the Christian fighters seized control of the town's airstrip, blocking outgoing flights of wounded patients, MSF said.

France strengthened its presence in its former colony to 1,600 troops in early December, who are joined by nearly 6,000 African peacekeepers. On Friday, France announced that it is increasing the number of its troops on the ground in Central African Republic by 400 for a total of 2,000.

The U.N. secretary-general has dispatched an envoy to the country to consult with the African Union about possibly transforming the African force there into a U.N. peacekeeping force, though such a mission could take up to six months to become operational on the ground.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
A MAN who calls himself Mad Dog and ate a man's flesh says he was seeking "revenge"

The BBC reports that Magloire spotted his victim sitting on a minibus and decided to follow him. Eventually he had 20 young people with him forcing the bus driver to stop. The mob then dragged the man off the bus, beat and stabbed him before setting him on fire.

Footage shows Magloire eating the man's leg. He says it was revenge for a Muslim killing his pregnant wife, sister-in-law and her baby.

A number of people got footage of the attack but no one intervened to save the man.

"One of the individuals took hold of an arm and went and bought some bread and starting chewing on the flesh, along with his bread," eyewitness Jean-Sylvestre Tchya said. "The scene made many people vomit, and some cried out in horror."

Michel Djotodia, the first Muslim to rule the Christian-majority nation, stepped down as president on Friday as his Seleka rebels were accused of targeting Christian civilians, leading to the creation of self-defence groups known as anti-balaka.

Those groups have in turn been accused of atrocities against members of the Muslim minority. Looting erupted throughout the city after Mr Djotodia's resignation with crowds breaking down the doors of shops, many of them belonging to Muslims.

So far the violence has claimed around 1000 lives in the past month.

Another witness to the cannibalism, Alain Gbabobou, said he saw a man pick up the head and wrap it up carefully, saying he would "feast on it'' later.

"F***ing country!'' said a young Muslim man who gave his name only as Fathi, shaking his head in bewilderment as he gazed upon the body of a man whose face was crushed by rocks in an attack on a mosque.

"We believed Djotodia's resignation would be a peaceful solution for everyone,'' he said, adding his former Christian friends had sent him a text message, warning: "Now it's your turn. It's impossible to live with Muslims."
Acts of cannibalism are rare in the Central African Republic, where sectarianism is a recent development.

Former colonial power France has sent military intervention and an African peacekeeping force has on hand to try and stem the violence.

Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, speaker of the country's provisional parliament and interim president, vowed that the "anarchy'' that has gripped the country would be swiftly brought to an end.

And he issued a stern warning to warring militiamen from the mostly Muslim Seleka group and the anti-balaka Christian fighters set up to oppose them.

Speaking at a police headquarters in the capital Bangui, he said: "To the ex-Seleka, to the anti-balaka and the lovers of looting, I'm giving you a severe warning: The party is over.''

Mr Nguendet, whose parliament has been charged with finding a new transitional president within two weeks, declared: "The chaos is over, the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over.''

The return of soldiers and police to duty was another encouraging sign for the Central African Republic after weeks of horrific sectarian violence.

The United Nations' special representative to the country, Babacar Gaye, appealed to the population "to maintain calm and show maturity following the resignations."

The cannibalism reports are reminiscent of Jean Bedel Bokassa, who ruled the Central African Republic between 1966 and 1979, and was accused of eating human flesh, incorporating it in meals for visiting officials and feeding slain opponents to animals.

Agencies

 
Christian Militias in Central African Republic Target Muslim Minority: Former Muslim Strongholds Are Ghost Towns

By Jason Ditz, February 12, 2014

While the pretext for the French invasion of the Central African Republic was violence by the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels, since their ouster Christian militias have used anti-Seleka sentiment to target Muslim civilians en masse, with many openly talking about religious cleansing of most, if not all, of the nation.

Major CAR cities have seen their Muslim minorities vanish in the blink of an eye. Yaloke once had 30,000 Muslims and eight mosques. Today, Human Rights Watch reportedly only about 500 are left. They are hiding out in a single mosque, their neighborhoods looted and the rest of the mosques destroyed by the militias.

It's even more stark in what used to be Muslim-dominated towns, which HRW described as virtual ghost towns now. They talked to militias in those areas who promised to kill any Muslims who remained.

Amnesty International warned the exodus was reaching "historic proportions," and that the international troops sent to the country to stop the fighting had failed to protect the Muslim minority.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
'Catastrophe of unspeakable proportions' in Central Africa - UNHCR

The head of the UN's refugee agency said Wednesday he had witnessed "a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions" during his visit to the Central African Republic.

"Massive ethno-religious cleansing is continuing. Shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterised this violence," Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.

He also said the country's new government is incapable of effectively protecting its citizens.

His statement clashed awkwardly with a speech on Wednesday by the CAR's new transitional president, Catherine Samba Panza, who vowed war against a mostly Christian anti-balaka ("anti-machete") militia whose recent attacks have led to a mass exodus of Muslims.

"We are going to go to war against the anti-balaka," she told a crowd in the town of Mbaiki, south of the capital Bangui.

"They think that because I'm a woman, I'm weak. But now the anti-balaka who want to kill, will themselves be hunted," she said.

The anti-balaka emerged last year after a mostly Muslim rebel group seized control of the country. They have gone on the rampage in Bangui and elsewhere, largely targeting Muslims, since the rebels were ousted from power last month.

During her speech, Samba Panza was joined on stage by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

READ: CAR leader vows to stop people's suffering

France has grown increasingly strident in its calls for action against the anti-balaka, fearing that the violence could lead to partition of the country.

But the UN refugee agency said much will be needed to stem the attacks, and spoke of "dramatic underfunding" of relief operations.

"The international community must come together for a significant and immediate increase of the forces and police on the ground," said Guterres.

"Our resources are overwhelmed and ability to do more hampered. The Central African Republic is falling through the cracks of international attention. This cannot be allowed to happen."

Even a huge airlift launched on Wednesday by the UN's World Food Programme is unlikely to make a dent in the humanitarian crisis.

The first cargo aircraft, loaded with 80 tonnes of rice, landed in Bangui in the early afternoon. There will 24 daily supply drops to the city.

"This is a rather exceptional operation, our biggest emergency air operation in a long time, bigger than for Syria and the Philippines," WFP spokesman Alexis Masciarelli told AFP.

But he admitted the operation "would not completely solve the problem" in CAR, where 1.3 million people -- more than a quarter of the country's population -- is in need of food assistance.

The WFP says a total of 1,800 tonnes of rice will be flown in from Douala in Cameroon, enough for just 150,000 people.

Aid is most desperately needed in camps where more than 800,000 have sought refuge from the sectarian violence that has erupted in the country.

Locals say they are now confronted with a new menace of food scarcity and soaring prices with the flight of Muslim shopkeepers.

"Now the hard part begins," said Herve Songo, a teacher in the capital Bangui. "Now that all the Muslim shops have been looted, ransacked and destroyed, prices have increased substantially."

That is if there is anything left to buy.

'Ethnic cleansing'

The humanitarian situation in the CAR has deteriorated since a coup in March 2013 led by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels plunged the country into chaos.

Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was pressured into giving up the presidency on January 10 by the international community, triggering a wave of retaliatory attacks against Muslims.

In a report this week, Amnesty International said the violence had led to a "a Muslim exodus of historic proportions".

"Anti-balaka militias are carrying out violent attacks in an effort to ethnically cleanse Muslims in the Central African Republic," said Joanne Mariner, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

In her speech in Bangui on Wednesday, Samba Panza rejected the "ethnic cleansing" label.

"I don't think there is any religious or ethnic cleansing. This is a security problem," she said.

An African Union-led MISCA mission has so far failed to curb the violence or the exodus of civilians, mainly to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

MISCA has around 5,400 troops in the country, while France has deployed 1,600 soldiers under Operation Sangaris.

"International peacekeeping troops have failed to stop the violence," said senior adviser Donatella Rovera.

"They have acquiesced to violence in some cases by allowing abusive anti-balaka militias to fill the power vacuum created by the Seleka's departure."

The most lethal attack documented by Amnesty took place on January 18 in Bossemptele, where at least 100 Muslims were killed. Women and old men were among the dead, including an imam in his mid-70s.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
'Ethnic cleansing' taking place in C.Africa: Amnesty

LIBREVILLE – "Ethnic cleansing" is being carried out against Muslim civilians in the Central African Republic, with international peacekeepers unable to prevent it, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

The rights group said it had documented at least 200 killings of Muslim civilians by Christian militia groups known as the anti-balaka, set up in the wake of the March 2013 coup by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebellion.

"'Ethnic cleansing' of Muslims has been carried out in the western part of the Central African Republic, the most populous part of the country, since early January 2014," Amnesty International said in a report.

"Entire Muslim communities have been forced to flee, and hundreds of Muslim civilians who have not managed to escape have been killed by the loosely organised militias known as anti-balaka."

The group said attacks against Muslims had been committed "with the stated intent to forcibly displace these communities from the country," with many anti-balaka fighters viewing Muslims as "'foreigners' who should leave the country or be killed."

They appear to be achieving their airms, with Muslims being forced out of the country in increasingly large numbers," it said.

The impoverished country descended into chaos last March after the mainly Muslim rebellion overthrew the government, sparking deadling violence that has uprooted a million people out of a population of 4.6 million.

Atrocities, the fear of attacks and a lack of food have displaced a quarter of the country's population, while the United Nations and relief agencies estimate that at least two million people need humanitarian assistance.

The landlocked country has been prone to coups, rebellions and mutinies for decades, but the explosion in interreligious violence is unprecedented.

Amnesty urged international peacekeeping forces in the country to "take rapid steps to break anti-balaka control over the country's road network, and to station sufficient troops in towns where Muslims are threatened."

It called for international troops to be granted the necessary resources to achieve this, warning of a "tragedy of historic proportions" that could set a precedent for other countries in the region struggling with sectarian or ethnic conflict.

There are currently 5,300 African Union troops operating under a UN mandate in the former French colony and the force is expected to reach 6,000 by March.

France has deployed 1,600 troops, while the EU has promised to deploy 500 troops at athe beginning of March and the United States is providing logistical support.

France's defence minister said last week that while the presence of French troops had brought back some stability to the capital Bangui, it had not done so for the rest of the country.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
ICC launches C.Africa war crimes probe

THE HAGUE - The International Criminal Court said it had opened an initial probe into war crimes in the Central African Republic, where another lynching Friday underscored spiralling sectarian violence.

The latest victim fell off a lorry in a convoy of thousands of terrified Muslims fleeing Christian vigilantes in Bangui.

Residents hacked him to death and dumped his body on the road side, an AFP photographer saw, a killing observers say is only the tip of the iceberg.

On Wednesday, government soldiers stabbed, trampled and pelted a suspected ex-rebel in a gruesome lynching that took place moments after a military ceremony attended by the Central African Republic's new interim president.

France's 1,600 troops and the African Union's contingent of more than 5,000 have so far been unable to stem the sectarian violence which has displaced around a quarter of the population.

The ICC chief prosecutor's move to investigate the unrest that has plagued the nation of 4.6 million for more than a year brings yet another African case to the Hague-based tribunal.

"My office has reviewed many reports detailing acts of extreme brutality... and allegations of serious crimes being committed," Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

"I have therefore decided to open a preliminary investigation into this... situation," she said.

9,000 fled

The UN refugee agency said 9,000 people, mostly Muslims, have fled to neighbouring Cameroon over the past 10 days alone.

Violence broke out in the poor landlocked country in late 2012 when a coalition of mainly Muslim rebels launched an offensive against Francois Bozize, who had been in power for a decade.

The Seleka fighters toppled him in March but some went rogue, killing, raping and looting in a bloody campaign their former leader Michel Djotodia -- by then the country's first Muslim president -- was unable to stop.

The violence drew comparisons with the warlords of Somalia and sparked revenge attacks by villagers who formed vigilantes known as "anti-balaka".

Former colonial power France deployed a force of 1,600 troops in December and thousands of African peacekeepers also began patrolling the capital but sectarian hatred boiled over.

The violence has in recent weeks "reached intolerable and unprecedented levels," the Doctors Without Borders group said in a statement Friday.

"Civilians remain in constant fear for their lives, and have been largely left to fend for themselves," the charity's emergency coordinator Martine Flokstra said.

Wednesday's lynching, moments after the new interim president Catherine Samba Panza spoke of her pride in seeing the armed forces contribute to national security again, sent shockwaves across the international community.

In front of dozens of journalists who had covered the ceremony, uniformed troops ganged up on a suspected ex-Seleka rebel and beat him up.

One soldier dropped a huge block of concrete on the lifeless body as it was being dragged through the streets. The mob then burned the corpse and some posed for pictures in front of it.

'Bring them to justice'

"Honourable ministers, hunt them down and bring them to justice," the CAR's interim prime minister, Andre Nzapayeke, said at a press conference Friday.

"They are all over the Internet, they were parading in front of the cameras in a macabre spectacle. That means they can be identified," he said.

Thousands have been killed in the vast country -- larger than France -- although no accurate figures exist for a conflict that has remained largely under radar outside of Bangui.

"The plight of civilians in CAR... has gone from bad to worse," Bensouda said.

"The allegations include hundreds of killings, acts of rape and sexual slavery, destruction of property pillaging torture, forced displacement" and using child soldiers, she added.

"In many incidents, victims appear to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds."

Reports by aid workers from several towns in the interior tell of attacks by armed bands, killing and looting, with nobody to prevent the violence.

The ICC prosecutor's investigation is not the first in Central Africa.

In 2007, former prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo launched a probe into violence which lead to the arrest of former Congolese deputy president Jean-Pierre Bemba.

A former rebel leader, Bemba is currently on trial before the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces in 2002-2003 in a fight against Bozize's rebel movement in the CAR at the time.

Bensouda said the new initial probe, which is "unrelated" to the Bemba case, will determine whether there are grounds to open a full-blown probe in the troubled country.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
Christian Militias Destroy CAR Mosques

Thursday, 13 February

BANGUI – Moving from area to another, Christian mobs have been targeting Muslim places of worship in central Africa, killing Muslims and looting their belongings, as violence rocked the restive country.

Of the 36 mosques that had originally stood in Bangui, "today, they are less than ten," Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, a top Muslim community leader in CAR, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, February 12.

Over the past weeks, thousands of terrified civilian Muslims fled for their lives to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.

Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on Muslims in the strife-torn republic.

Going from door to door, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties, the UN report revealed.

Yet, over the past days, mosques became their latest target as Christian mobs raided a Bangui mosque last Tuesday.

"They looted the mosques' iron sheets, doorframes and windows," Sherif Wadi, a Muslim eyewitness described the attack with coincided with the release of Amnesty report that denounces targeting Muslims in CAR.

According to Imam Layama, at least 67 mosques had been destroyed across the strife-torn country.

For Christian mobs, the attacks were targeted at forcing Muslims to abandon their homes and flee abroad.

"We're fed up with Muslims here and want them all to leave," local resident Hubert Ndho shouted.

"That's why we destroyed their mosque."

Save Haven

Despite increasing attacks targeting mosques, some CAR Muslims found their mosque in Kilometer 5 district as the last remaining shelter for thousands of them.

"We used to live in harmony with the Christians in this country for many years," Marriam,.an elderly woman who take refuge at a central mosque in Kilometre 5, told AA.

"We don't know who poisoned their minds to start these [sectarian] murders.

"This is our country, but they're telling us to leave or they will kill us," Marriam added tearfully.

Located in a Muslim detonated district, the mosque serves as a refugee facility where children are playing, women cooking and men patrolling to ensure safety.

"I feel safe here," said Fatima Mahamat, a middle-aged woman.

"I used to live in Miskine. Then one evening Christian mobs attacked my home," she recalled.

"We fled and they looted everything." Mahamat, added.

The crowded mosque shelters hundred of displaced Muslims who have brought their belongings and cars.

"Many families have come from the countryside, where there is increasing violence, to seek safety here," said Ramadan, a displaced Muslim.

The number of displaced persons at the central mosque remains un-clear.

"Sometimes the numbers go up if there is an attack in the area," said Imam Ahmed Tijani.

"But at most there are about 500-700 people living here," the Imam added.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International warned that Anti-Balaka fighters in the Central African Republic were trying to "ethnically cleanse Muslims".

The human rights organization has also accused peacekeeping forces of failing to protect the threatened Muslim minority.

The group said that at least 200 killings of Muslim civilians by Christian militia groups known as the anti-balaka.

It added that the attacks against Muslims were committed with the government intending to "forcibly displace" the Muslims from the country.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets
 
Ethnic Cleansing of CAR Muslims: Amnesty

CAIRO – Anti-Balaka fighters in the Central African Republic are trying to "ethnically cleanse Muslims", a leading international human rights organization has warned, accusing peacekeeping forces of failing to protect the threatened Muslim minority.

"Anti-balaka militias are carrying out violent attacks in an effort to ethnically cleanse Muslims in the Central African Republic," Joanne Mariner, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International said in the report released on the group's site on Tuesday, February 11.

"The result is a Muslim exodus of historic proportions."

The report, released on Tuesday, is based on over one hundred first-hand testimonies of large-scale anti-balaka attacks on Muslim civilians in CAR's northwest towns of Bouali, Boyali, Bossembele, Bossemptele, and Baoro, Amnesty said.

The group added it had documented at least 200 killings of Muslim civilians by Christian militia groups known as the anti-balaka, set up after the March 2013 coup by the mainly-Muslim Seleka rebellion.

The group said attacks against Muslims had been committed "with the stated intent to forcibly displace these communities from the country," with many anti-balaka fighters viewing Muslims as "'foreigners' who should leave the country or be killed".

The rights group also said that the attacks against Muslims were committed with the government intending to forcibly displace the Muslims from the country.

To escape the anti-balaka's deadly attacks, the entire Muslim populace has fled from numerous towns and villages while in others, the few who remain have taken refuge in and around churches and mosques.

The journey to safety is difficult and dangerous. Convoys are frequently attacked by anti-balaka militia.

The story of how a small boy called Abdul Rahman lost his entire family was one of the evidences on ethnic cleansing of the country's Muslim population.

On January 14, the boy was travelling in a truck with six members of his family.

At an anti-balaka checkpoint, they demanded that all the Muslim passengers get off; killing all the members of his family, including three women and three small children, one of them was a toddler, he told Amnesty International.

The most lethal attack documented by Amnesty International took place on 18 January in Bossemptele, where at least 100 Muslims were killed. Among the dead were women and old men, including an imam in his mid-70s.

Tepid Response

Amnesty International criticized the international community's tepid response to the crisis, noting that peacekeeping troops have been reluctant to challenge anti-balaka militias, and slow to protect the threatened Muslim minority.

"International peacekeeping troops have failed to stop the violence," said Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

"They have acquiesced to violence in some cases by allowing abusive anti-balaka militias to fill the power vacuum created by the Seleka's departure."

The impoverished country has been engulfed in a bloody sectarian violence involving Christians and Muslims since last year.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the Central African Republic since last December, when Christian militias launched coordinated attacks against the mostly Muslim Seleka group, which toppled the government in March 2013.

Going from door to door, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties, the UN report revealed.

African peacekeeping force MISCA has already deployed some 5,400 of 6,000 planned troops to CAR. Another 1,600 French soldiers are also on the ground in the country.

"The urgency of the situation demands an immediate response," said Joanne Mariner.

"It is time for the peacekeeping operation in CAR to protect the civilian population, deploy to threatened areas, and stop this forced exodus."

Worried by the unfolding crisis, Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is a mediator in the conflict, said, "It is the duty of the international community to act with more firmness and diligence to end the reign of barbarism."

In New York, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon told reporters: "The sectarian brutality is changing the country's demography. The de facto partition of the CAR is a distinct risk."

"The international response does not yet match the gravity of the situation.

"We must do more to prevent more atrocities, protect civilians, restore law and order, provide humanitarian assistance and hold the country together," he added.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets
 
Muslims Flee CAR's Bangui

BANGUI – Thousands of terrified civilian Muslims have fled for their lives from the Central African Republic capital Bangui under a slew of insults from angry Christian mobs who set fire to mosques and lynched a Muslim after he fell off a crowded lorry.

"It really is a horrific situation. All over Bangui, entire Muslim neighbourhoods are being destroyed and emptied," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, who has gotten trapped Muslims to safety under the guard of peacekeepers, Sky News reported on Friday, February 7.

"Their buildings are being destroyed and being taken apart, brick by brick, roof by roof, to wipe out any sign of their once existence in this country," he added.

Guarded by Chadian forces, a convoy of some 500 cars, trucks and motorcycles carried thousands of Muslims who fled their homes in a mass exodus on Friday.

Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on Muslims in the strife-torn capital of the Central African Republic.

One Muslim man who tumbled from the overloaded trucks was lynched to death by Christian crowds who cheered the evacuation of Muslims.

The mob set on the victim after he fell off one of the lorries and hacked to pieces his body, which still lay by the side of the road by late morning.

"He didn't even have the time to fall - he landed into the hands of the angry mob who then lynched him at the scene," said Armando Yanguendji, a resident of the Gobongo district of Bangui.

Another vehicle only escaped attack when Burundian peacekeepers fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

Muslim Central Africans and foreigners have been fleeing Bangui for several months to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.

Yet, armed Christian "anti-balaka" fighters have set fire to mosques, brutally killing Muslim civilians and looting their belongings in different districts of the capital.

The UN humanitarian agency says nearly 900 people have been killed in Bangui alone since violence escalated in early December.

The UN also says more than 800,000 people have been displaced.

War Crimes

As violence escalated in CAR, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had opened an examination into crimes allegedly committed in the strive-torn country.

"The plight of civilians in CAR since September 2012 has gone from bad to worse," said International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a statement, adding some victims of crimes, which included alleged killings and acts of rape and sexual slavery, appeared to have been singled out on religious grounds, Reuters reported

The ICC chief prosecutor's move to investigate the unrest that has plagued the nation of 4.6 million for more than a year brings yet another African case to the Hague-based tribunal.

"My office has reviewed many reports detailing acts of extreme brutality... and allegations of serious crimes being committed," Bensouda said in a statement.

"I have therefore decided to open a preliminary investigation into this... situation," she said.

CAR, a mineral-rich, landlocked country, descended into anarchy in March of last year when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.

Earlier in January, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was sworn in as CAR's first female president.

She replaced Michel Djotodia, the country's first Muslim president since its independence from France in 1960, who stepped down earlier this month due to international and regional pressure.

Over the past weeks, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties.

Inter-religious violence has claimed thousands of lives and displaced a million people in the population of 4.6 million, yet such clashes are unprecedented in the poor, landlocked country.

Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.

A case of cannibalism has been reported too when a video showed a Christian man chewing the flesh of a Muslim driver killed in Christian mob.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets
 
Christian Militias Hunt CAR Muslims

BANGUI – Wielding machetes, sticks and rudimentary weapons, Christian militias have been killing Central African Muslims from town to town on the pretext of hunting down ex-rebels from the Seleka coalition.

"He was a Muslim from here, named Abaka," Benjamin, a Christian man, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Friday, January 31, while standing near the body of a young man whose ears were ripped off.

"They killed him in the courtyard of his house," he added.

"They" are not only the Christian militias known as the "anti-Balaka" but also ordinary Christians who have gone on the rampage against the few Muslims who have not fled Bangui.

The Muslim man was killed in PK-5 district, the business hub of the capital.

The scene of a dead Muslim was not strange anymore in Bangui districts.

Every now and then, residents from the Muslim minority, like Abaka, are cut down by anti-balaka forces armed with machetes, hammers, slings and spades.

Moreover, numerous Muslim-owned shops attract looters and anti-balaka forces, who are kept at bay by armed Muslims and remaining Seleka forces.

CAR, a mineral-rich, landlocked country, descended into anarchy in March of last year when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.

Earlier in January, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was sworn in as CAR's first female president.

She replaces Michel Djotodia, the country's first Muslim president since its independence from France in 1960, who stepped down earlier this month due to international and regional pressure.

"He looked Muslim"

Looking like Muslims was a sufficient reason to get killed in Bangui district those days.

"He looked like a Muslim with his curly hair and prayer beads around his wrist," witness Victor said, referring to the dead body of a young Christian.

The dead man's legs, sticking out from under the cloth that covered him, were deeply cut above the ankles, "to make the blood flow faster," according to one commentator.

"This can't go on. Things are getting out of hand. It must stop," Victor said softly.

The wife of the victim and one of his sisters were weeping. "I told him not to go out," cried the bereaved spouse.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported increasing deaths and maiming of dead bodies in the capital.

"Our teams are treating large numbers of people for injuries that are the result of extreme violence including maimings from attacks and lynchings," MSF said in a statement.

"Last week we treated 200 people... for violence-related injuries, 90 of whom needed lifesaving surgery.

The group added that it planned to extend its medical and humanitarian work into the interior, "where our emergency teams report that some villages remain deserted and people are terrorized."

Over the past weeks, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties.

Inter-religious violence has claimed thousands of lives and displaced a million people in the population of 4.6 million, yet such clashes are unprecedented in the poor, landlocked country.

Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.

A case of cannibalism has been reported too when a video showed a Christian man chewing the flesh of a Muslim driver killed in Christian mob.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets
 
Christian Militias Slaughter CAR Muslims

BANGUI – Destroyed mosques, slaughtered or evacuated families are some of the rare reports about anti-Muslim atrocities that found its way to the international media, while reporting on the unrest in Central Africa Republic.

"Women, children, even pregnant women were slaughtered by the anti-Balaka," Yahiya Abu Bakr, the chairman of a committee that oversees the local mosque in Bangui, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday, December 19.

Testimonies on the atrocities committed by anti-Balaka Christian militias against CAR's Muslim community are rare in the international media.

As fingers are always pointed at Muslim ex-rebels, Seleka, as the main culprit, vague or scant reports appeared about death toll among Muslims.

Bashir, a 48-year-old Muslim who lives in the Christian-majority district of Fouh in Bangui, is one of the eyewitnesses of brutal anti-Muslims carnages that tore through the area earlier in December.

"When the trouble started, the anti-Balaka attacked the Muslims in the area," Bashir, wearing a traditional white dara (a long open cloak) and a white hat, said.

"The local mosque was destroyed, just like my home."

The 48-year-old resident explained how his younger brother and three others were killed mercilessly before they could escape with their lives.

"The machete hit him on the side of the neck," he said.

"There were so many people – not just anti-Balaka, but Christians from around the area," Bashir added.

A similar pain was shared by Abu Bakr, the mosque chairman, who confirmed that more than 108 Muslims from the region have been killed in recent violence.

Abu Bakr has also claimed that attackers used to mutilate Muslim victims and their corpses.

"The anti-Balaka cut off people's limbs," he said.

"I also saw bodies that had their genitals removed.

"We perform the funeral prayers here, so I know about the injuries sustained by those that were killed," he added.

Biased French

As the violence exacerbates, CAR Muslims accuse French peacekeeping troops of taking the side of the Christian militias.

"We don't trust the French because we've seen their one-sided actions," said Umar Hussain, a Muslim businessman.

The French troops have been turning deaf ears to atrocities against Muslims, watching Muslims killed in cold blood, other witnesses added.

"They are the troublemakers!" Umar Didi, an eyewitness, shouted.

"People were killed in front of French soldiers who did nothing."

"How can they just leave people to be slaughtered – and watch while it takes place?" asked Hussain.

About 1,600 French troops, which are reinforcing a stretched African peacekeeping mission, started deploying to the north and east of the country earlier on December to secure main roads and towns outside the capital.

As the attacks intensified in CAR, many Muslims were forced to leave their villages, living in makeshift camps or mosques.

Taking shelter into a Bangui mosque, a Muslim mother tells the story of how her four innocent children were slaughtered before her.

"They killed four of my children: two sons and two daughters," said Salma, a mother of the slain children who were aged ten, eight, six and two.

"My father and mother were also killed in the attack," the mother added.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has released a report on Thursday, following its two-week mission the restive country, saying that 'crimes against humanity were committed by all parties to the conflict'.

The sectarian war has led to the displacement of 614,000 people across the country and 189,000 in the capital alone, according to the Amnesty.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch has also urged the UN to send peacekeeping mission to restore security in CAR.

CAR, a country of nearly five million people, is mostly Christian, with about 15 percent Muslims who are concentrated in the north where the rebellion started.

The different religions have always coexisted peacefully and leaders from both sides have urged people not to confuse the fact that there is a Muslim leader, with the "Islamization" of the country.

Despite of current woes, Muslims in the African nation have asserted their hopes of restoring peace in their country one day, where Muslims and Christians lived in harmony for decades.

"We want peace," Abu Bakr stressed.

"We are ready to call for it, but the anti-Balaka are the ones that are doing the provocations by killing Muslims and destroying mosques."

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets

 
Sectarian Violence Flares In Central Africa

BANGUI – Images of life started to return to the streets of Central Africa Republic's capital city of Bangui following days of bloodshed in which hundreds were killed after Christian militias launched multiple attacks from the north, sparking fears of uncontrolled sectarian war.

"Peacekeepers are patrolling the main roads. This is helping keep the looting down. But the atrocities are inside the neighborhoods," Amy Martin, head of the UN Officer for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, told Reuters on Saturday, December 7.

"If they can get into the neighborhoods, we might start seeing a reduction in these crimes.

"The level of atrocities and the lack of humanity, the senseless killing defies imagination," Martin added.

According to the Red Cross, at least 300 have been killed over the weekend after when Christian militias, loyal to the CAR's ousted President Francois Bozize, launched multiple attacks from the north.

The attacks sparked retaliatory attacks from mainly Muslim armed fighters loyal to the new leadership, the BBC reported.

On Thursday and Friday, residents spoke of gun battles in their neighborhoods and hundreds fled to the airport seeking the protection of some of the French troops based there.

The local Red Cross said that by Friday evening 281 bodies had been collected from the city's streets but many more were expected to be brought in over the weekend.

Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the organization, said attacks were taking place in parts of town on Saturday.

"We see the international forces, but there has not been any real impact on the ground. It will take time," he said.

Capping on months of rebellion against the former ruler in which religious tensions flared between religious minorities, President Michel Djotodia declared himself the country's first Muslim leader after ousting President Bozize on March 24.

Taking the helms of power, Djotodia has struggled to rein in members of the now-dissolved Seleka group that swept him to power nine months ago.

Rogue former rebels turned warlords have set up little fiefdoms and sown terror in villages, killing, looting and raping with impunity.

The increasingly sectarian nature of the violence has heightened international fears that the nation was on the brink of all-out civil war.

French Forces

French forces, which are reinforcing a stretched African peacekeeping mission, started deploying to the north and east of the country on Saturday to secure main roads and towns outside the capital.

"We have started to deploy outside of Bangui," French army spokesman Gilles Jarron said.

"The French forces pre-positioned in Cameroon have crossed the border and have started reconnaissance missions in the east.

"We have also started the first missions from Bangui towards the north of the country," he said.

There are about 2,500 troops in the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) that will eventually reach 3,600 and on December 19 become an African Union force.

Former colonial power France has spearheaded efforts to stop the rot in a nation already among the world's poorest and now facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

After a UN resolution on Thursday, the French contingent increased its existence in Central Africa Republic to about 1,200 troops.

"There were patrols all night, including some on foot," a French defense ministry source said.

"We are going everywhere - on the main roads but also to locations we have been directed to by humanitarian organizations and the civilian population."

Agencies, OnIslam & Several Others
 
Muslim Women, Children Killed in C.Africa

BANGUI – Twelve Muslims, including 10 children and a pregnant woman, have been hacked to death north of Bangui in the Central African Republic after a Christian militia attacked the Muslim herders.

"Among the victims were children and a disemboweled pregnant woman," a military source told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, December 4, adding that at least 10 other children were hospitalized in Bangui with deep gashes.

"It's not uncommon to see people with machete wounds. But so many at a time? We've never seen anything like this in Central Africa before," a nurse at the occasion added.

The attack took place late on Monday when Christian militiamen known as "anti-balaka" attacked herders from the Peuhl ethnic group, which is made up mainly of Muslims, Amy Martin, the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) in Bangui, told Reuters news agency.

The government said the attack took place in Boali, about 95 km (60 miles) from the capital.

Survivors and security officials said Christian vigilantes, formed to fend off marauding gangs of mostly Muslim ex-rebels, were responsible for the slaughter.

Michel Djotodia declared himself the country's first Muslim leader after seizing power in a coup that ousted President Francois Bozize on March 24.

The coup capped months of rebellion against the former ruler in which religious tensions flared between religious minorities.

Taking the helms of power, Djotodia has struggled to rein in members of the now-dissolved Seleka group that swept him to power nine months ago.

Rogue former rebels turned warlords have set up little fiefdoms and sown terror in villages, killing, looting and raping with impunity.

In Damara, east of the capital, an estimated 30,000 people have fled Seleka attacks over the past few days.

The increasingly sectarian nature of the violence has heightened international fears that the nation was on the brink of all-out civil war.

Former colonial power France has spearheaded efforts to stop the rot in a nation already among the world's poorest and now facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

"Horrible" Crime

The massacre of 12 Muslim women, children and men by suspected Christian radicals highlighted the need for "urgent" action.

"The United States is appalled by today's reports of the murder of innocent women and children outside of Bangui," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement cited by AFP.

"This horrifying account is the latest in a string of reports that illustrate the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) that could lead to an escalation in violence and further atrocities."

Speaking to the France 24 channel in Paris ahead of the summit, Central African Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye condemned the Boali massacre as "horrible and heinous".

"The government condemns all violence," he said, adding that "in recent days, there had been a surge in such unrest, particularly in the provinces."

Bangui has become a tinderbox where people of Chadian descent and other Muslims feel threatened and fear a wave of attacks "avenging" the crimes of Seleka gunmen.

"Those Chadian dogs are going to pay," an elderly Bangui resident told an AFP reporter with a virulence that belied his quiet manner.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank warned in a briefing paper on Monday that the city was on the brink.

"The combination of religious tensions and powerless transitional authorities is the perfect recipe for further deadly clashes between local populations and the various Seleka factions, especially in Bangui," it said.

The massacre occurred as the United Nations prepared for a vote Thursday on a measure authorizing thousands of African and French troops to end anarchy in the Central African Republic, where massacres have led to warnings of genocide-style strife.

The UN resolution, which envoys say is certain to be passed unanimously, also orders an arms embargo against the huge, impoverished nation where chaos has reigned since rebels forced the president to flee in March.

There are about 2,500 troops in the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) that will eventually reach 3,600 and on December 19 become an African Union force. France has 600 troops there and plans to increase this to 1,200.

But United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon has warned that up to 9,000 troops could be needed if the crisis blows up and a full UN force has to take over.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets
 
Muslims Burnt in CAR's Bangui Streets

BANGUI – A horrific report by the BBC has revealed that Christian militias have killed two Muslims and burnt their bodies in a Bangui street, as angry mobs vowed to carry on killing Muslims in their area.

"We will be here out here around the clock; if I see a Muslim passed I would kill him myself," an angry man in Central African Republic told BBC correspondent Thomas Fessy on Sunday, January 19.

Describing the horrifying incident, Fessy said that angry mobs killed two Muslim men and set fire to their bodies.

Attackers claimed that the incident was to avenge the death of a Christian man in the Christian neighborhood.

Meanwhile, French and African Union soldiers were struggling to contain sectarian violence, but their efforts seemed in vain.

"In the absence of government, angry mobs now rule the streets," Fessy said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had taken 25 very seriously injured people to hospital in Bangui.

In a statement issued from its headquarters in Geneva, ICRC added that fresh inter-communal violence had flared up in north and north-western areas of the country.

Red Cross workers had buried 50 bodies discovered over the past 48 hours in the north-west, it said.

The corpses were buried in Bossembele, Boyali and Boali in country's northwest.

The ICRC expressed concern that much of the population, fearing reprisals, was hiding in the bush with no-one to protect them.

Former CAR president Michel Djotodia resigned after he faced pressure to step down, being considered by many unable to halt the bloodshed.

Deployed to cripple the ongoing fighting in CAR, the French peacekeeping forces have disarmed the ex-Seleka rebels, allowing Christian militias to retaliate from the disarmed Muslim community.

Going from door to door, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties.

The French troops have been accused of turning deaf ears to atrocities against Muslims, watching Muslims killed in cold blood.

Although the clashes appear to have diminished, killings and human rights violations are still carried out with impunity.

Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.

A case of cannibalism has been reported too when a video showed a Christian man chewing the flesh of a Muslim driver killed in Christian mob.

The country of nearly five million people is mostly Christian, with about 15 percent Muslims who are concentrated in the north.

Agencies, OnIslam & Several Others
 
Bangui Imam Vows to Stay in CAR

BANGUI - Reflecting the anguish of Muslims in Central Africa Republic, a Bangui Muslim imam has shared his appalling testimony about atrocities committed against Muslims in the strife-torn country.

"I don't want to leave Bangui, I want to be the last Central African Muslim to leave the country or at least the last Muslim to be buried here," a Bangui Imam told the BBC's Newsday program on Monday, February 10.

"This country is the last resting place of both my father and mother," the anguished imam added.

Over the past weeks, thousands of terrified civilian Muslims fled for their lives to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.

Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on Muslims in the strife-torn republic.

Going from door to door, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties, the UN report revealed.

"The anti-balaka vigilantes have been targeting us," he said

"They've burned most of the mosques in the capital, only a handful of mosques remain untouched in our neighborhood."

Though thousands of Muslims fled their country, the imam, whose name was not identified by BBC's report, refuses to leave, taking shelter with remaining Muslims in Kilometer 5; a Muslim majority district of Bangui.

"I'll be last Muslim in CAR," he said.

"If they want to kill us in Kilometer 5, our neighborhood, so be it - we have no weapons.

"But are ready to accept our fate because we believe in God and we are confident that God will protect us," he added.

In the strive-torn country, a Muslim name could cost a person his life.

"It's fine if you are called John, Peter, Mary or Martin but things get ugly when you first name is Mohammed, Ousmane or Ibrahim - chances are you will end up in a hit list," the Muslim citizen complained.

"This violence is waged by thugs calling themselves anti-balaka."

Targeting Muslims

Watching the ongoing exodus of CAR Muslims, aid organizations have warned of a looming collapse of the market in the torn country.

According to Oxfam and Action Against Hunger, less than ten wholesalers remain in Bangui, as hundreds left.

"Bangui is losing its business community which is made up largely of Muslims - they've been ransacking Muslim shops," the Imam said.

"Commodity prices have gone up, a bunch of salad will cost you 200 CFA Francs (40 cents; 25p) - twice as much as a little while ago."

Running for their lives, livestock traders like the Fulani and nomadic Chadians are not approaching Bangui anymore, the imam said.

"Buying meat? Don't even think about it, there is none," the imam said.

The terrified family of the imam, which includes wife and children, has fled the country, "it's too dangerous for them to stay with me," the father said.

"Only the male members of the Muslim communities have decided to stay and protect their possessions," he added.

Though the French peacekeeping troops were deployed to cripple ongoing fighting in CAR, Muslims have repeatedly accused them of allowing Christian militias to retaliate from the Muslim community.

"We watch [the French troops] patrolling along the main streets of the city but they will not come into our neighborhood to protect us," the imam said.

"We are alive only by the grace of God."

The UN humanitarian agency says nearly 900 people have been killed in Bangui alone since violence escalated in early December.

The UN also says more than 800,000 people have been displaced.

As violence escalated in CAR, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said last week that it had opened an examination into crimes allegedly committed in the strive-torn country.

Agencies & Several Newsoutlets
 
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