Bangui - Thousands of villagers in Central African Republic
fled clashes between former rebels and local militias on Tuesday, residents
said, increasing concerns about growing violence between Muslims and
The landlocked nation of 4.6 million people has slid into
anarchy since the mostly Muslim Seleka fighters seized the capital Bangui in
March, ousting president Francois Bozize and unleashing a wave of tit-for-tat
Seleka leader Michel Djotodia, installed as transitional
president, officially dissolved the loose coalition of rebel forces but that
has failed to stem clashes with local self-defence militias, known as
'anti-balaka' or anti-machetes.
The latest violence began just south of the town of Bouca –
290km to the north of Bangui - early on Monday.
"Seleka fighters went yesterday morning to attack the
base of the anti-balaka, 10km south of town, and the fighting lasted all day
yesterday and restarted this morning," said Calvain Poumale, a taxi driver
who fled to the nearby town of Batangafo.
In September, around 100 people died in fighting between
Seleka fighters and local Christian militias in Bouca and Bossangoa, 100 km to
the east, which is Bozize's home region.
Poumale said gunfire and explosions from heavy weapons were
audible in Bouca before he left. He reported seeing two vehicles carrying dead
and wounded Seleka fighters return to the town.
"Thousands of inhabitants fled with bundles of
belongings on their heads towards Bossangoa, Batangafo and into the bush,"
Poumale told Reuters.
Officials in Bangui declined to comment.
In a sign of rising lawlessness in the capital, the home of
assistant prosecutor was the target of a grenade attack on Monday night which
killed one person and seriously injured another.
It was the second attack on a member of the judiciary in
recent days after a senior magistrate and his assistant were killed by gunmen
outside a restaurant at the weekend.
The Economic Community of Central African States has
deployed a 2 500-strong regional peacekeeping force in Central African
Republic. The African Union is due to take charge of that force next month and
boost its size to 3 600 troops.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that the
United Nations was preparing to possibly deploy peacekeepers, but regional
powers had requested to combat the crisis themselves first.
Josue Baka, another villager who fled to Batangafo, said
Seleka reinforcements had arrived in Bouca on Tuesday afternoon, but no troops
from the regional peacekeeping force had arrived.
"The townsfolk are continuing to flee because they are
afraid the rebels will capture them," he said. "People have bad
memories of what happened before."
Central African Republic is rich in gold, diamonds and
uranium, but decades of instability and the spillover from conflicts in its
larger neighbours have left the country mired in crises.
Senior UN officials have warned that Central African
Republic is at risk of spiralling into genocide, as armed groups incite
Christians and Muslims against each other in the virtually lawless country.