Dozens killed in church slaughter in Central Africa
Muslim rebels stormed a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic yesterday, killing as many as 30 people in a hail of gunfire and grenades, witnesses said.
The attack on the compound at the church, where thousands of civilians had sought refuge from the violence ravaging Bangui's streets, is the largest blamed on Muslim fighters since their Seleka coalition was ousted from power nearly five months ago.
The attack marked a rare attack on a house of worship, as Catholic churches have served as sanctuaries for both Christian and Muslim civilians since the country erupted into sectarian bloodshed in December.
Fears escalated last night that the new bloodshed would spark reprisal attacks on the city's few remaining Muslims, most of whom fled the city in a mass exodus earlier this year that the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.
In the hours that followed, Christian militia fighters began putting up road blockades around Bangui.
"We were in the church when were heard the shooting outside," said the Rev Freddy Mboula. "There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere."
About 30 people were killed in the attack, including a priest at the church, Mr Mboula said.
At least 20 bodies were reportedly taken to one hospital in the city because the morgue was not in service.
The country's political crisis took on inter-communal dimensions as hatred among the Christian majority grew toward a brutal Muslim rebel regime that had seized power by force in March 2013.