BANGUI – Thousands of terrified civilian Muslims have fled for their lives from the Central African Republic capital Bangui under a slew of insults from angry Christian mobs who set fire to mosques and lynched a Muslim after he fell off a crowded lorry.
“It really is a horrific situation. All over Bangui, entire Muslim neighbourhoods are being destroyed and emptied,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, who has gotten trapped Muslims to safety under the guard of peacekeepers, Sky News reported on Friday, February 7.
“Their buildings are being destroyed and being taken apart, brick by brick, roof by roof, to wipe out any sign of their once existence in this country,” he added.
Guarded by Chadian forces, a convoy of some 500 cars, trucks and motorcycles carried thousands of Muslims who fled their homes in a mass exodus on Friday.
Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on Muslims in the strife-torn capital of the Central African Republic.
One Muslim man who tumbled from the overloaded trucks was lynched to death by Christian crowds who cheered the evacuation of Muslims.
The mob set on the victim after he fell off one of the lorries and hacked to pieces his body, which still lay by the side of the road by late morning.
"He didn't even have the time to fall - he landed into the hands of the angry mob who then lynched him at the scene," said Armando Yanguendji, a resident of the Gobongo district of Bangui.
Another vehicle only escaped attack when Burundian peacekeepers fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
Muslim Central Africans and foreigners have been fleeing Bangui for several months to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.
Yet, armed Christian "anti-balaka" fighters have set fire to mosques, brutally killing Muslim civilians and looting their belongings in different districts of the capital.
The UN humanitarian agency says nearly 900 people have been killed in Bangui alone since violence escalated in early December.
The UN also says more than 800,000 people have been displaced.
As violence escalated in CAR, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had opened an examination into crimes allegedly committed in the strive-torn country.
"The plight of civilians in CAR since September 2012 has gone from bad to worse," said International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a statement, adding some victims of crimes, which included alleged killings and acts of rape and sexual slavery, appeared to have been singled out on religious grounds, Reuters reported
The ICC chief prosecutor's move to investigate the unrest that has plagued the nation of 4.6 million for more than a year brings yet another African case to the Hague-based tribunal.
"My office has reviewed many reports detailing acts of extreme brutality... and allegations of serious crimes being committed," Bensouda said in a statement.
"I have therefore decided to open a preliminary investigation into this... situation," she said.
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.
Earlier in January, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was sworn in as CAR's first female president.
She replaced 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.
Inter-religious violence has claimed thousands of lives and displaced a million people in the population of 4.6 million, yet such clashes are unprecedented in the poor, landlocked country.
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.
Related Links:Anti-Muslim Violence Escalates in CAR
Muslims Burnt in CAR's Bangui Streets
Reprisal Attacks Target CAR Muslims
Militias Kill Muslims Fleeing CAR
Children Targeted in CAR Violence: UNICEF