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CAR Muslims hit by mob violence

09 February 2014, 07:33

Dakar - Mob violence in Central African Republic's capital has escalated to the point where crowds slay Muslims and mutilate their bodies almost daily despite the presence of thousands of French and African peacekeepers.

Bangui, the capital, is engulfed in an orgy of bloodshed and looting.

"We are in a moment where immediate action is needed to stop the killings," Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch told The Associated Press, calling for a full-fledged United Nations peacekeeping mission. "Otherwise the future of the Muslim community of this country will be gone."

Muslims make up about 15% of Central African Republic's 4.6 million people. More than 800 000 people have fled their homes - about half of those from the capital, according to the United Nations.

"There are some who don't want Muslims in this country," Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke said on local radio Saturday.

"But when the Muslims have left the country, what happens next? The Protestants will throw out the Catholics, and then the Baptists against the Evangelists, and finally the animists? It is time we regain control and stop ourselves from plunging into an abyss."

Thousands of Muslims left Bangui in a massive convoy on Friday that was jeered by crowds of Christians. One Muslim who fell off a truck was quickly was quickly killed by the mob.

Muslim women who could not get on the trucks tried to hand their children to strangers aboard the vehicles. Whole neighbourhoods are abandoned and Muslims who cannot leave are hiding inside mosques that have not already been set ablaze or destroyed by angry crowds.

Entire Muslim communities also have left towns in the rural northwest, sometimes only to come under attack from Christian militiamen and die while trying to get out of the anarchic country.

Across a wide stretch of northwest Central African Republic, Christian militiamen known as the anti-Balaka (or anti-machete) have driven tens of thousands of Muslims out of the area. Many are seeking refuge in Chad or Cameroon, as there are few corners of Central African Republic where Muslims are an outright majority.

The violence against the Muslims is in reaction to abuses perpetrated by the Muslim Seleka rebels during their 10-month rule that began last March.

Seleke fighters tied their victims together and threw them off bridges to drown or be eaten by crocodiles, according to witnesses.

Now that Seleka's leader Michel Djotodia stepped down from the presidency last month and a precarious civilian interim government is in charge, it is the country's Muslim minority that is now under assault.

- AP


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