World

Fighting erupts in Central African Republic town

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Residents of a Central African Republic town have fled their homes after Muslim fighters overran the place and killed several people, a local official said Monday.

Eric Kongbo said that the fighters — former members of the Seleka rebel alliance and Muslim herders — arrived in Grimari, in the country's center, a day earlier. They knocked down doors and set fire to homes and slit the throats of some people, said Kongbo, who spoke to a reporter from the bush after having fled himself.

He said it was unclear how many people had been killed because residents were too afraid to return to the town. Capt. Ahmat Nidjad Ibrahim of the Seleka said Christian militias had attacked the town and his fighters were merely chasing them. He said his group had been fighting with the Christian militias in that area because they killed a Muslim herder.

Central African Republic exploded into sectarian violence last year amid mounting resentment toward a government led by the Seleka rebels, who took power in a coup. The rebels were blamed for raping, torturing and killing civilians, especially Christians. Christian militias then sprang up to exact revenge.

French and African Union forces have intervened, but they are struggling to protect civilians throughout the vast country. Kongbo criticized the French forces, saying they hadn't intervened in Grimari. Capt. Sebastien Isern, a spokesman for the French military, confirmed that forces had recently deployed to the town and were slowly stabilizing the area. He did not have any specific information on the attack.

To respond to the immense challenge of patrolling the country, the U.N. Security Council authorized a nearly 12,000-strong peacekeeping force last week.

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