At least 48 people were killed in clashes between rival militias in the restive Central African Republic town of Alindao last week, according to an internal United Nations report seen by AFP on Monday, November 19.
The death toll had previously been reported as 37, including two priests, in the country’s latest surge of violence.
The bloodshed was sparked in the central town of Alindao on November 15 between mainly Christian anti-Balaka milita members, and the Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC), one of the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka militias.
The town’s church and a camp for displaced people were burned. Pictures seen by AFP show burnt bodies in the fire.
Other than the two priests, it has not yet been possible to confirm whether those killed were civilians or armed fighters.
More than 20,000 people have been displaced by the violence, according to the U.N.
Despite reserves of diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and iron, Central African Republic is one of the world’s poorest countries.
The majority-Christian country descended into violence following the 2013 ousting of President Francois Bozize in 2013 by the Seleka, a coalition of mainly Muslim rebel groups.
Seleka was officially disbanded within months, but many fighters refused to disarm, becoming known as ex-Seleka. Many others joined the mainly Christian anti-Balaka militia to fight the Seleka, leading to a spiral of violence between groups along both religious and ethnic lines.
Violence by both sides led to thousands of deaths. Nearly 700,000 people are displaced, 570,000 have fled the country and 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a Saturday statement said the latest attack was attributed to the UPC militia, which has its roots in the Seleka group.
However the UPC accused “both Muslim and Christian bandits” of being behind the incident.
“The UPC has dispatched one of its units to stop looting and violence,” the group said in statement on Monday.
Alindao is a UPC stronghold and has witnessed chronic fighting in recent months that has also killed two U.N. soldiers and a humanitarian aid worker.
On August 23, a U.N. peacekeeper from Burundi was killed in an ambush in Pavika, around 22 km (14 miles) from Alindao, and on May 17, a Mauritanian peacekeeper was killed and eight others injured in an attack on a U.N. convoy around 28 km (17 miles) south of Alindao.
Both attacks were blamed on anti-Balaka militants.
The town lies on a critical route traversing the south and east of the country and is in the heart of a region numerous gold and diamond mines that have helped fuel the conflict.
The U.N. has warned of a “disastrous” humanitarian situation in the region, which it said was under the control of armed groups.
Three soldiers killed, three injured in Bambari
The clashes in Alindao were just one incident in a bloody week in Central African Republic.
Three Central African military personnel died in a Saturday shootout between soldiers in the town of Bambari in the centre of the country, a high-ranking military source told AFP on Sunday, November 18.
Three other soldiers were injured in the gunfight that pitted members of military engineering units against each other, the source said.
“Everything started with an argument between military engineering units about the security and financial conditions in which they were carrying out their work,” the military source said about Saturday’s fight.
The engineers had been deployed to Bambari to undertake work in preparation for World Food Day celebrations, which had originally been planned for October 16 but have been postponed twice because of violent incidents.
UN peacekeeper killed in western CAR
A U.N. peacekeeper died after gunmen attacked a U.N. military base the west of the country, the peacekeeping mission Minusca said in a Saturday, November 17 statement.
The latest deadly attack brings to seven the number of blue helmets killed in CAR this year.
The Tanzanian soldier died in hospital late the previous day of injuries they received in the raid on the base in Gbambia, 112 km (70 miles) northwest of Berberati in Mambéré-Kadeï prefecture.
The peacekeepers were protecting civilians seeking refuge in its camp as the village was attacked, Guterres said in a statement.
Minusca sent peacekeepers to reinforce both the military post and the village, and the attackers, who were suspected to be members of the Siriri militia, fled.
There were a number of other incidents in Mambéré-Kadeï prefecture involving Siriri earlier in the year
On June 3, a Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed and seven others were wounded in Dilapoko village in Mambere-Kadei prefecture when they were ambushed by Siriri fighters, and on April 22, four people were killed in clashes between U.N. peacekeepers and an armed group in village of Nassole. One local source told AFP that the head of Siriri was among those killed.
UN Security Council wrangling over Minusca madate
The U.N. Security Council voted on November 15 to temporarily renew the mandate of the Minusca mission until December, amid heated debates about its ability to stem the unrest.
The vote came on the deadline for a renewal of the force’s mandate and amid wrangling over a resolution drafted by France that would see U.N. peacekeepers support newly-trained Central African troops as they deploy, supporting a “rapid extension of state authority over the entire territory.”
President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s weak government controls around a fifth of Central African Republic and relies heavily on the Minusca peacekeeping mission for support. The rest of the country is controlled by at least 14 different militia groups who often fight each other for control of revenue from extortion, roadblocks or mineral resources.
The French proposal raised eyebrows, in particular from the United States, which is seeking to streamline peacekeeping operations to reduce costs and make them more effective, diplomats said.
But agreement was reached over language that specifies that the new task given to Minusca will not lead to additional costs, AFP reported.
The council is also divided over language in the draft resolution that takes aim at recent Russian efforts to broker peace deals in CAR by specifying that an African-led initiative is “the only framework” for a solution.
A new vote must be held before December 15.
With reporting from AFP