“This is not a war between an army and a rebel group. It’s really become a conflict between communities where people are being targeted based on their religion,” said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who has documented scores of attacks in Central African Republic.
“And it is actually the Muslim community which is the most vulnerable because of the vast abuses committed by the Seleka and the fact that they are a relatively small minority amongst a much larger Christian population who are just furious because of the abuses they have suffered” under the Seleka.
Camal Fodor managed to get his friend to a health clinic by 7 a.m., but seven hours later he still lay listless on a bench.
“The anti-balaka attacked our neighborhood and he was shot in the stomach,” Fodor said of his friend, Solomon Haroun, whose blood-soaked T-shirt was dripping blood through the cracks of a wooden bench, where it pooled on the floor below, next to another man awaiting treatment for gunshot wounds.
In another sign of the growing melee, Prime Minister Nicholas Tiangaye confirmed his house had been looted, describing the attackers as a group of Seleka who arrived in three four-wheel-drive pickup trucks.
Speaking in Paris to the Associated Press, Tiangaye said he had been informed that the provisional toll was “more than 100 dead and several hundred wounded.”
Babacar Gaye, the U.N. special representative for the Central African Republic, appealed for calm in a joint statement from the U.N., European Union, African Union and France.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned the “shocking and horrific atrocities against civilians” and said the U.S. was providing $40 million in assistance to the African Union mission.
In the hills overlooking Bangui, dotted with banana trees, the ex-Seleka fighters spent Thursday afternoon showing off the weapons they’d seized from the enemy earlier in the day. The fighters traded combat boots for flip flops and munched on French baguettes in the shade.
Gen. Bachar Fadoul says the Christian militia may attempt another attack but his troops will be waiting.
“We will hunt them down and chase them from the city,” he said.