BANGUI, Central African Republic: The Central African Republic’s mostly Muslim ex-rebels killed nearly 1,000 people in the capital Bangui two weeks ago in a rampage avenging deadly Christian militia attacks, Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.
The death toll was significantly higher than earlier estimates by the United Nations, which spoke of 450 killed in Bangui and another 150 elsewhere in the country.
The two-day spasm of violence by fighters from the former Seleka rebel group came after Christian militias known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) went door-to-door in some districts in the capital “and killed approximately 60 Muslim men,” Amnesty said in a statement.
“The de facto government forces, known as ex-Seleka, retaliated on a larger scale against Christians in the wake of the attack, killing nearly 1,000 men over a two-day period and systematically looting civilian homes. A small number of women and children were also killed.”
Its report was based on a two-week fact-finding mission to the Central African Republic, which has been mired in chaos since March, when Seleka took power and ousted the previous government.
Months of violence, looting, rapes and massacres by the Seleka prompted local communities to form Christian vigilante groups, leading to the recent explosion of sectarian violence.
The information gathered “has left no room for doubt that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by all parties to the conflict,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Central Africa expert.
France sent 1,600 soldiers to the Central African Republic in the wake of the bloodletting to bolster African troops there and try to restore calm. The UN Security Council gave authorisation for the French-led mission amid fears of a Rwanda-like explosion of communal violence.
Despite the foreign intervention, “civilians are being wilfully killed on a daily basis, with at least 90 additional people killed since 8 December,” Amnesty said.