BANGUI – As atrocities seemed far from cooling down, a Muslim former minister was hacked to death by machete-wielding Christian militiamen in the capital of the Central African Republic late of Friday, January 24, sparking fresh clashes in the civil war-torn country.
"The anti-balaka started attacking him with machetes and sticks and they killed him," a family member of former minister Joseph Kalite, told Reuters.
Kalite, who once held the housing portfolio, was stepping out of a taxi when he was attacked by machete-wielding Christian militia men.
The relative, who requested anonymity, added that a brother-in-law who was with Kalite at the time of the attack managed to escape.
The minister's body was later recovered and taken to the Ali Babolo Mosque where Reuters reporters saw the mutilated corpse.
"He wasn't even holding any function within the Seleka, he was excluded by the Seleka, but as he was a Muslim official, they cowardly killed him because of that," Mamoud Hissene, vice president of a Muslim youth organization, told Reuters.
Witnesses added that least nine other people were killed when Christian militias, either members of anti-balaka or Christian residents who jointed anti-Muslim attacks in Bangui, attacked and looted shops in the mostly Muslim Miskine neighborhood of Bangui on Friday.
In a Friday press statement, Amnesty International said that more than 50 Muslims had been killed by Christian anti-balaka militias in two separate attacks northwest of Bangui.
The rights watchdog said that anti-balaka fighters had stopped a truck transporting people fleeing to Cameroon in the town of Boyali, some 130km northwest of the capital.
According to Amnesty, the militiamen then used machetes and knives to kill their captives – who included three women and three children – in the street outside a local mosque.
The second attack, the rights group said, occurred on January 16 in the town of Bossembele, some 30km north of Boyali, where 25 bodies were found inside a local mosque and another 18 were found strewn in nearby streets.
The country of nearly five million people is mostly Christian, with about 15 percent Muslims who are concentrated in the north.
In a different district in volatile Bangui, another Muslim was killed when an angry mob of Christians attacked the young man with machetes and rocks.
"It was a case of sudden death," a police officer told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Saturday.
"I told him, 'don't go over the crossroads, they will kill you'. But his brother had called him in the morning and asked him to join him on the other side.
"He didn't listen, he jumped out of the window [of a police station in Bangui, where he had been taken into protective custody], and they killed him straight away."
"They" are not only the Christian militias known as the "anti-Balaka", set up to avenge attacks by former Seleka fighters, but also ordinary Christians who have gone on the rampage against the few Muslims who have not fled Bangui.
The young man, who was not identified by AFP, died in the volatile northern PK-12 district of Bangui, where Christians have moved in to steal property from the homes of fleeing Muslims.
PK-12 is where the roads to neighboring Chad and Cameroon intersect.
A stone's throw away, hundreds of terrified Muslims wait for the Chadian army to escort them on the long and dangerous journey through the bush towards Chad.
At district PK-12, Muslims are not the only ones at risk.
Christian Serge Gbade, who lives barely 100 meters from a French military checkpoint, has fallen victim to the Christian looters.
"Yes, I'm a Christian, the anti-balakas accused me of selling to Muslims," says Gbade breathlessly after running barefoot to the French soldiers for help.
"They said, 'it's Friday, the Muslim day',” he said rejecting the accusations against him.
With both arms scratched and bleeding, he said he only escaped the looters by breaking through the straw roof of his house and jumping.
"They wanted to kill me. They took all my cattle, 417 oxen, 28 pigs, 30 goats, some chickens," he told a French soldier, who watches the looting through his binoculars.
CAR, a mineral-rich, landlocked country, descended into anarchy in March of last year when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.
On Thursday, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was sworn in as CAR's first female president.
She replaces Michel Djotodia, the country's first Muslim president since its independence from France in 1960, who stepped down earlier this month due to international and regional pressure.
Over the past weeks, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties.
Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.
A case of cannibalism has been reported too when a video showed a Christian man chewing the flesh of a Muslim driver killed in Christian mob.
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