Bangui – At least 40 people were killed in weekend fighting
between armed vigilantes and former rebels near Bouar in western Central
African Republic, the army said on Tuesday, issuing a new toll.
"The fighting last Saturday between self-defence
militias and ex-rebels killed almost 40 people, including at least 35 in the
ranks of the militias, with several wounded," a source close to the
general staff said.
A previous toll on Sunday said 12 people were killed.
Early on Saturday, hundreds of local militias armed with
military weapons and machetes encircled Bouar, a town about 400km northwest of
the capital Bangui on Saturday morning, the source said.
The militiamen were confronted by ex-rebels of the Seleka
alliance, which has been disbanded by President Michel Djotodia since they
brought him to power after ousting his predecessor, Francois Bozize, in March.
Bouar lies in a region of the highly unstable and very poor
landlocked nation where people were considered loyal to Bozize, who himself
seized power in a coup in 2003 and was twice re-elected into office.
The militiamen "attacked us with RPG 7 [rocket
launchers] and Kalashnikov [assault rifles], as well as home-made rifles",
a wounded former rebel colonel, Al Goni Moussa, said after his transfer to
Intensity of the fighting
"The fighting lasted for more than two hours. We drove
back the anti-balakas [militias]. Their leader, Francois alias 'Bokassa', was
killed. His brother and his son were also killed," Moussa said.
The death toll could "rise further, in light of the
intensity of the fighting that followed the attack on the ex-Seleka base and on
the Bouar aerodrome by the self-defence militia," an army source said.
"This is really a rebellion taking shape," said a
source in the president's office who asked not to be named. "Those who are
behind this rebellion have also claimed responsibility for the attacks on
Bossangoa and Bouca" in the northwest," he added.
Early in September, attacks by hitherto unknown militia
forces that emerged to protect the population from local warlords killed almost
100 people in the Bossangoa region.
Atrocities blamed on Seleka forces - whom the regime is
integrating into the regular armed forces - have led to communal violence,
sparking fears that clashes may take a religious turn, pitting Muslims against
Christians, who make up about 80% of the population of about 4.5 million.
Most of the fighters in the movements that formed the Seleka
alliance profess the Islamic faith and Djotodia, who was sworn in on 18 August to
oversee a transition back to democracy, is the country's first Muslim head of