CAR Seleka rebels kill many in Bangui church attack

A guide to the CAR crisis - in 60 seconds

At least 11 people have been killed in an attack on a church in the Central African Republic.

Eyewitnesses said members of the Seleka militia group threw grenades before shooting indiscriminately at the Church of Fatima in the capital Bangui.

The mostly Muslim Seleka rebels have been involved in heavy fighting with mainly Christian fighters in the anti-balaka militia since March 2013.

The conflict has displaced about 25% of CAR's 4.6 million population.

The attack on the church followed hours of fighting in the PK5 neighborhood of Bangui.

Eyewitnesses said those inside the Catholic church were seeking shelter from the clashes.

Rev Freddy Mboula told the Associated Press (AP) that he was in the church when shooting was heard outside.

"There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere" he said.

The priest of the church, Jonas Bekas, told Reuters that the death toll would probably rise because there were so many wounded.

"It would have been much worse if the anti-balaka militia had not come to defend us" he said.

A man brandishes a sword during clashes between French soldiers and Seleka fighters in Bambari May 24 Villagers in the northern town of Bambari clashed with French troops last Thursday

AP reported that Christian militia fighters had begun putting up road blockades around Bangui in the hours after the attack.

Reprisals fear

It is the worst attack on Christians in the country since the Seleka rebels were ousted from power in January 2014.

Seleka Prime Minister Michel Djotodia was forced to resign as president after failing to stop anti-Christian attacks.

Since then, there have been widespread reprisals against Muslim civilians, who were almost completely driven out of Bangui in what the UN said amounted to ethnic cleansing.

CAR's religious make-up

  • Christians - 50%
  • Muslims - 15%
  • Indigenous beliefs - 35%

Source: Index Mundi

Lat week the Seleka group announced that it had put in place a new chain of command to "rein in" its fighters.

The group still controls large parts of the country's north.

The African Union, France and the European Union have about 7,000 troops battling to end the conflict.

The UN has also pledged to send some 12,000 peacekeepers amid fears of a genocide, but no date has yet been set for the deployment.

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