INTERNATIONAL peacekeepers were accused last night of failing to prevent ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic, as the discovery of a mass grave laid bare what a visiting United Nations official described as "unspeakable" horror.
A human rights group said that Christian militias were being allowed to slaughter Muslims within impunity because French and African Union peacekeepers were too thinly spread to stop them.
Amnesty International said that it would lead to further tit-for-tat violence, a warning given credence yesterday when peacekeepers found at least a dozen rotting corpses at a barracks occupied by members of the Muslim Seleka militia in the capital, Bangui.
Meanwhile, Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN's refugee agency said yesterday: "Massive ethno-religious cleansing is continuing," said Mr Guterres. "Shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterised this violence."
The Amnesty International report said that despite the presence of some 1,600 French peacekeeping troops and some 6,000 African Union soldiers, Christian militias, known as "anti-balakas" were still carrying out attacks on ethnic Muslims.
Only last week, a group of CAR soldiers in Bangui publicly lynched a man suspected of having been a rebel, as a jeering crowd took photographs which were later beamed around the world. Burundian peacekeepers were at the scene but withdrew for their own safety.
Amnesty also reported a case in Bangui in which the bodies of a number of Muslims who had been killed earlier were mutilated and set on fire. "French forces barely 50 metres away did not intervene to stop the mutilation of the bodies," Amnesty said.
Yesterday Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, appealed to France to send more troops, saying he feared the country could spiral into genocide. (© Daily Telegraph, London)