Published: Wed, May 17, 2017
Medical | By Ismael Lynch

Armed rebels in C. African Republic city agree to leave

Armed rebels in C. African Republic city agree to leave

More than 1,000 residents had fled their homes and had taken refuge in a mosque; some 1,500 others in a cathedral; and 500 others in a hospital, humanitarian agencies said.

Fighting in the eastern region of Central African Republic has mounted in recent months.

The U.N. mission noted that "deliberate attacks in Bangassou, with heavy weaponry, seem to be well-planned as the perpetrators made access very hard by destroying bridges and blocking all accessible roads to town", said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general.

Early Saturday, another Moroccan soldier died in a similar attack on the base and a nearby Muslim-dominated area.

It said the attackers were members of a wide coalition including the mainly Christian anti-Balaka group who "attacked civilian populations, targeting in particular Muslims", another sign of the continuing sectarian violence that has ravaged the country.

These areas of Central African Republic did not experience major violence during the sectarian bloodshed that erupted in late 2013 and ultimately forced almost all of the Muslims in the capital, Bangui, to flee to the country's north and beyond to neighbouring Chad.

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During a pastoral mission in the area on May 12, Nzapalainga called armed forces to lay down their arms and met with representatives from various fronts to listen to their demands. By midday Monday, the United Nations mission in Central African Republic said "assailants have agreed to leave the city".

The attack came just hours after the United Nations held a memorial ceremony to honor five peacekeepers, four Cambodians and one Moroccan, killed on May 8 in a nearby village of Yogofongo, in a deadly attack perpetrated by suspected anti-Balaka elements.

Among Africa's poorest countries, vehicle subsequently descended into bloodshed pitting the anti-Balaka fighters against the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels. The country has been plagued by inter-religious violence since 2013.

Before the cessation of violence, "armed men proceeded to destroy all of the bridges in Bangassou and had occupied the roads", he said.

A disarmament programme put in place by the government has failed to halt the rising violence. Partly for this reason, Pope Francis chose the vehicle to open the first Holy Door for the Jubilee of Mercy in 2016 during his trip to the country and preached forgiveness.

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