Charity says 22 dead after mob in north-west targeted vehicles carrying people trying to flee violence
Attackers armed with automatic rifles and machetes have ambushed a convoy of Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, killing 22 people and leaving survivors with gashes, Save the Children said.
Spokesman Mike McCusker said doctors described gory scenes and harrowing accounts after gunmen fired a rocket grenade to halt a convoy of refugees and then attacked with firearms, machetes and clubs. Three children were among the dead.
“Our doctor said there was blood everywhere, just pouring out of people like tap water,” McCusker told the Associated Press by phone.
Friday’s attack took place in the remote north-west, outside the town of Bouar. It shows African and French peacekeepers are not reaching remote areas where violence goes unreported, said the British charity’s country director, Robert Lankenau.
Life remains precarious in the “still fraught and highly dangerous” situation, he said.
He added: “An incident of this magnitude has only come to the forefront because of our internal contacts at the hospital. Maybe a lot of these stories are not being reported.” He said nearly the entire population of Bouar, about 40,000, was taking refuge in mosques and churches.
McCusker said many lives were saved because Save the Children was working at a nearby hospital, providing drugs and other medical supplies, and local staff alerted them to the carnage. Four surgeons quickly set up an operating room where they worked to save the most critically injured, including children.
Across the country, more than 1,000 people have died since December alone and nearly 1 million have been forced from their homes since a rebel leader backed by Muslim insurgents seized power last year. Michel Djotodia stepped down a week ago as international criticism mounted over his inability to halt killings that some warn could explode into genocide, with Christian and Muslim militants accused of atrocities. A transitional national council is to vote on Monday to choose an interim president from among 24 candidates. But there are fears that whatever choice they make could further ignite violence that has pitted rival tribes and Christians against Muslims.
About 50% of the 5 million people are Christian and 15% Muslim, while the rest follow traditional animist religions, according to CIA data.