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CAR toll 'much higher than thought'

19 December 2013, 16:07

Cape Town - December clashes in the Central African Republic have already claimed in excess of 1 000 lives, more than three times what had been previously reported, Amnesty International said Thursday.

Muslim fighters in the capital Bangui are accused of having killed almost 1,000 people over the space of just two days of retaliatory acts after Christian vigilante groups killed about 60 Muslim men on 5 December, the human rights group said in a report based on a two-week research mission.

Other acts of violence have pushed the death toll above the 1 000-mark, according to the report.

The victims of the revenge rampage by the de facto government forces, known as Seleka, were mostly men, but included women and children, it said, adding that the militiamen also looted civilian homes.

The Red Cross said on 7 December  it had counted 281 bodies.

"War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by all parties to the conflict," Amnesty's Central Africa expert Christian Mukosa said.

"Crimes that have been committed include extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies, intentional destruction of religious buildings such as mosques and the forced displacement of massive numbers of people."

Despite the presence of French and African military forces, civilians continued to be "wilfully killed on a daily basis, with at least 90 additional people killed since 8 December," Amnesty said.

France has sent 1 600 troops to CAR, which has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis since the Seleka coalition rose up against the government in December 2012 and overthrew president Francois Bozize, a Christian, in March.

Interim president Michel Djotodia has been struggling to restore law and order in the country, which is rich in gold and diamonds, despite the support of more than 3 500 African Union peacekeepers.

About 400 000 of CAR's 4.5 million people have been displaced and scores of civilians have been killed, especially in the country's north-west.



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