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Clashes between rival Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) town of Bria have claimed the lives of at least 22 people, including 17 civilians, and displaced 10,000 others over the past week.
“The fighting between armed groups in the northeastern town of Bria and elsewhere in eastern CAR must stop,” Diane Corner, the deputy head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the African country, known as MINUSCA, said in a Saturday statement.
“These appalling acts of violence committed by armed groups over the last week have killed scores of innocent Central African men, women and children, deprived families of their homes and citizens of their livelihoods,” she said.
Nearly 36 people were also wounded in the clashes, the UN mission noted.
On Friday, the rival factions fought over Bria’s airstrip. Humanitarian workers were forced to seek refuge inside the MINUSCA base in the area as a result of looting and insecurity.
UN forces have also bolstered their positions in the towns of Bangassou and Alindao, which have also been the scene of violent clashes this week.
On Wednesday, Red Cross workers said they recovered 115 bodies in Bangassou, a diamond mining hub, following several days of clashes.
Bangassou has witnessed an escalation in fighting over its control since 2013. In March the same year, the country fell into chaos when then President Francois Bozize was ousted by the mainly Seleka rebel alliance and was replaced by Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia, the first Muslim to hold the presidency in the generally-Christian nation.
The replacement, however, caused a series of deadly retaliatory attacks between the Seleka rebels and the Christian militia known as anti-balaka.
Some 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed to the country by the United Nations as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR. Civilians say the mission has failed to protect them against armed groups.