Thousands of People Flee Central African Republic

Peoples Digest Online-     Thousands of people have fled their homes as violence continues to engulf the south-eastern city of Bangassou in the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN on Monday said. More than 3,000 people had fled within hours of violence erupting late Friday when members of the mainly-Christian anti-Balaka militia attacked civilians and a UN field office.

UN peacekeepers exchanged fire with anti-Balaka Monday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. Dujarric did not comment on reports that militiamen had agreed to leave the city on condition that UN troops stop firing at them. One thousand people are confined in a mosque compound, and around 1500 have sought refuge in a cathedral.

Another 500 are hiding out in a hospital in Bangassou, 47 kilometres east of the capital city of Bangui, Dujarric said. An unknown number of people have also crossed the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo. The number of fatalities is unknown, but a Moroccan UN peacekeeper was killed in a firefight with the unidentified gunmen, the UN mission to the country confirmed on Saturday.

UN peacekeepers and an attack helicopter have been deployed as the mission continue to try to secure some of the strategic areas of Bangassou, Dujarric said. The outbreak of violence follows an ambush last week which killed four Cambodian peacekeepers and one Moroccan peacekeeper. The diamond-rich but poverty-stricken nation has been in crisis since late 2012 when violence broke out between two rebel groups.

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