Death toll in Central African Republic's capital rises to 19

Central African Republic's president on Wednesday declared three days of mourning as the death toll from renewed sectarian violence in the capital rose to 19, with nearly 100 others wounded.

New details emerged of an attack on a church that was targeted on Tuesday along with mosques and health facilities in Bangui's PK5 and Fatima neighbourhoods, with a priest among the dead.

President Faustin Touadera promised justice, saying the perpetrators and their accomplices will be found and prosecuted. Until then, he called for restraint.

The head of the Red Cross in the country told The Associated Press that the death toll had risen to 19, with 98 wounded.

Deeply impoverished Central African Republic has faced deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, with thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The nation saw a period of relative peace in late 2015 and 2016 but the violence has intensified and spread in the past year.

"In a country where the images from months of horrific violence are still fresh in the memories of people, these renewed tensions could stoke more attacks and bloodshed if those responsible are not stopped once and for all," said Amnesty International's Central Africa researcher, Balkissa Ide Siddo.

Tuesday's violence erupted when security forces attempted to arrest a member of an armed "self-defence" group in the PK5 neighbourhood and members of the group fired at them, Amnesty International said.

"The situation escalated quickly and members of the armed 'self-defence' group targeted civilians during a mass at the Notre-Dame de Fatima church," the rights group said.

Residents said they were in the middle of mass when they heard gunshots and the sound of grenades, Amnesty International said. Among the dead were women and children, one worshipper told the rights group. Security forces prevented the attackers from entering, residents said.

Abbot Albert Tougoumale-Baba, a fervent defender of a non-aggression accord that allowed Muslims to hold burial ceremonies in accordance with their religions, was among those killed. His body was carried to the presidential Renaissance Palace, where members of the Presidential Guard dispersed the crowd by firing shots in the air.

Two Muslims were burned to death in reprisal attacks, Amnesty International said.

A national police director, Sim Joaki Danigoumandji, told the AP that the two were Senegalese who got caught up with the crowd carrying the priest's body. Once identified as Muslims they were pulled from their vehicle and killed, he and residents said.

Anger has been high among some in Bangui since UN peacekeeping mission and local security forces launched a joint operation in the largely Muslim neighbourhood of PK5 in early April to arrest members of armed criminal groups after their leaders refused to disarm. The dead bodies of 17 civilians were laid in front of the UN peacekeeping offices shortly afterward in protest.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 1537 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
54% - 8540 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
33% - 5189 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 498 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.20
+0.3%
Rand - Pound
19.66
+0.8%
Rand - Euro
16.62
+0.9%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.54
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.6%
Gold
1,800.50
+0.6%
Silver
20.80
+2.4%
Palladium
2,224.00
-2.9%
Platinum
966.20
+0.5%
Brent Crude
99.60
+2.2%
Top 40
63,996
-1.0%
All Share
70,731
-0.8%
Resource 10
64,048
-2.8%
Industrial 25
86,577
-0.6%
Financial 15
16,059
+0.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE