BANGUI – Twelve Muslims, including 10 children and a pregnant woman, have been hacked to death north of Bangui in the Central African Republic after a Christian militia attacked the Muslim herders.
"Among the victims were children and a disemboweled pregnant woman," a military source told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, December 4, adding that at least 10 other children were hospitalized in Bangui with deep gashes.
"It's not uncommon to see people with machete wounds. But so many at a time? We've never seen anything like this in Central Africa before," a nurse at the occasion added.
The attack took place late on Monday when Christian militiamen known as "anti-balaka" attacked herders from the Peuhl ethnic group, which is made up mainly of Muslims, Amy Martin, the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) in Bangui, told Reuters news agency.
The government said the attack took place in Boali, about 95 km (60 miles) from the capital.
Survivors and security officials said Christian vigilantes, formed to fend off marauding gangs of mostly Muslim ex-rebels, were responsible for the slaughter.
Michel Djotodia declared himself the country’s first Muslim leader after seizing power in a coup that ousted President Francois Bozize on March 24.
The coup capped months of rebellion against the former ruler in which religious tensions flared between religious minorities.
Taking the helms of power, Djotodia has struggled to rein in members of the now-dissolved Seleka group that swept him to power nine months ago.
Rogue former rebels turned warlords have set up little fiefdoms and sown terror in villages, killing, looting and raping with impunity.
In Damara, east of the capital, an estimated 30,000 people have fled Seleka attacks over the past few days.
The increasingly sectarian nature of the violence has heightened international fears that the nation was on the brink of all-out civil war.
Former colonial power France has spearheaded efforts to stop the rot in a nation already among the world's poorest and now facing a humanitarian catastrophe.
The massacre of 12 Muslim women, children and men by suspected Christian radicals highlighted the need for “urgent” action.
"The United States is appalled by today's reports of the murder of innocent women and children outside of Bangui," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement cited by AFP.
"This horrifying account is the latest in a string of reports that illustrate the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) that could lead to an escalation in violence and further atrocities."
Speaking to the France 24 channel in Paris ahead of the summit, Central African Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye condemned the Boali massacre as "horrible and heinous".
"The government condemns all violence," he said, adding that "in recent days, there had been a surge in such unrest, particularly in the provinces."
Bangui has become a tinderbox where people of Chadian descent and other Muslims feel threatened and fear a wave of attacks "avenging" the crimes of Seleka gunmen.
"Those Chadian dogs are going to pay," an elderly Bangui resident told an AFP reporter with a virulence that belied his quiet manner.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank warned in a briefing paper on Monday that the city was on the brink.
"The combination of religious tensions and powerless transitional authorities is the perfect recipe for further deadly clashes between local populations and the various Seleka factions, especially in Bangui," it said.
The massacre occurred as the United Nations prepared for a vote Thursday on a measure authorizing thousands of African and French troops to end anarchy in the Central African Republic, where massacres have led to warnings of genocide-style strife.
The UN resolution, which envoys say is certain to be passed unanimously, also orders an arms embargo against the huge, impoverished nation where chaos has reigned since rebels forced the president to flee in March.
There are about 2,500 troops in the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) that will eventually reach 3,600 and on December 19 become an African Union force. France has 600 troops there and plans to increase this to 1,200.
But United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon has warned that up to 9,000 troops could be needed if the crisis blows up and a full UN force has to take over.