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At Least 21 Dead as Clashes Erupt Ahead of Election in Central African Republic

Militia members and protesters took the streets of Bangui on Sunday after a Christian neighborhood in the city was attacked in retaliation for the murder of a Muslim man.
Photo par Legnan Koula/EPA

Armed Christian militia members and protesters took the streets in the Central African Republic on Sunday after clashes erupted in the capital city of Bangui. At least 21 people were killed and another 100 wounded on Saturday after a Christian neighborhood was attacked in retaliation for the murder of a Muslim man.

Groups of young men barricaded Bangui's main roads with tree trunks early Sunday, and UN peacekeepers attempted to clear the streets by firing tear gas. The government has said the demonstrators are attempting to derail elections planned for next month.


"Enough is enough. We want (President Catherine) Samba-Panza to go," one protester told Reuters. "Since she's been there, the Muslims kill with impunity. She's doing nothing to disarm them."

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Witnesses also reported sounds of sporadic gunfire in the city, as well as the looting of homes and shops. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported receiving 75 wounded patients, and said that many buildings in town have been destroyed or damaged.

"It's very sad to see violence of such a scale occur once again, as we haven't experienced anything like this since October last year," said Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF head of mission in Central African Republic. "All our teams in Bangui were mobilized and have worked intensively to provide care to those who were wounded. We continue to monitor the situation closely in case violence would erupt again."

The clashes were some of the worst this year in Bangui, and protesters alleged that UN and French forces did little to intervene and stop Saturday's violence. Some called for the FACA, the sidelined Central African army, to take charge of security.

"We are calling for a civil disobedience movement starting now and we demand the immediate redeployment, without conditions, of the FACA," civil society leader Gervais Lakossa told Reuters.

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Still in the shadow of two years of violence that erupted after Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013, thousands of Central Africans have died and scores more remain displaced.

Elections for a new president and parliament to replace Samba-Panza's interim government are set to take place on October 18. Security Minister Dominique Said Paguindji told Reuters that despite violence in the capital and political lags, the vote will proceed as scheduled.

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Reuters contributed to this report.

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