Bangui – Gunmen looted humanitarian compounds as fighting gripped the Central African Republic town of Bria while more than 20 000 people have fled to a nearby UN peacekeeping base, authorities said on Friday.
Concerns are mounting that sectarian violence is again spiraling out of control in the country, even in places that previously were spared during the conflict that began in late 2013.
Clashes erupted in Bria again on Friday and the situation was worsening, according to the UN humanitarian agency. At least five people have been killed and several dozen wounded since the unrest began on Tuesday.
“Armed groups came to humanitarian compounds and pillaged a warehouse,” the agency’s chief of office for the country, Joseph Inganji, told The Associated Press. “There’s fighting taking place but we don’t know who’s fighting who.”
The central town in November was the site of fierce clashes between two splinter groups of the mostly Muslim rebel movement called Seleka that has battled with Christian militia fighters.
Human Rights Watch said at least 14 people were killed over 11 days of fighting in Bria.
Other previously calm parts of the country have seen deadly fighting in recent days.
Since May 8 more than 150 people, including six UN peacekeepers, have been killed in attacks in the southeastern town of Bangassou, the southern town of Alinadao and in Bria, according to the UN, which has warned the death toll may rise.
In the capital, Bangui, tensions were running high.
People spoke of the fighting in Bangassou and Bria in hushed tones, turning up the radio whenever the names of the towns came on. Businesses in the Muslim neighbourhood of PK5 were closed in protest of the violence in Bangassou, where Muslims reportedly were targeted.
The humanitarian community’s appeal for aid for Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, is only 16% funded.