BANGUI, Central African Republic, Sept. 27 (UPI) — Fighting in the capital of the Central African Republic over the weekend has killed at least 21 people and wounded another 100 after a Muslim taxi driver was killed and found dumped in the street.
Officials and witnesses told reporters angry Muslims from Bangui’s 3rd district, armed with automatic weapons, attacked the mainly-Christian 5th district.
United Nations peacekeepers have taken positions inside the city as fleeing residents seek refuge in displacement camps.
U.N. helicopters have been reported flying over Bangui as attackers set cars and buildings alight.
Religious and ethnic tensions have plagued the Central African Republic since 2013, when Muslim Seleka rebels seized control of the majority Christian country — prompting the formation of Christian militias and the flight of 25 percent of the population.
Fighting divided the nation as Muslims were chased from the south, and the violence led to the resignation of the rebel leader in January 2014 as an interim administration took over. France deployed troops to its former colony to restore order, and a 10,000-strong U.N. force secured the capital and began peacekeeping duties throughout the country.
Since then, Bangui had been free of attacks until a grenade attack earlier this month.
The BBC’s Max Allaroum, reporting out of Bangui, says the clashes constitute the worst fighting and loss of life in the country this year.
The violence comes nearly a month after the release of 163 children as part of an agreement by various armed groups in the country to no longer use child soldiers.
At the time, Mohamed Malick Fall, a representative with the United Nations Children’s Fund, said the “release is a sign that the process of implementing the commitment made by the leaders of these groups, as a part of the peace and reconciliation process, is on track.”