100 dead in Central African Republic town, mayor says

BANGUI, June 20 (Reuters) - Around 50 people were killed on Tuesday in the Central African Republic town of Bria when fighting erupted between rival armed factions despite the signing a day earlier of a peace deal aimed at ending years of bloodshed, the town's mayor said.

"At 9:30 a.m. we already received 35 wounded at the hospital, mostly gunshot wounds", said Mumuza Muhindo Musubaho, project coordinator in Bria for the global aid group also known by its French acronym MSF.

One of the world's poorest nations, auto has been struggling to recover from a civil war between Muslim and Christian militias that started in 2013 when President Francois Bozize was overthrown by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

On Monday, a ceasefire was signed between the government and the militants in Rome.

The move triggered a backlash from mostly Christian militias, called the anti-balaka.

But by Wednesday morning, the death toll had risen to around 100, according to the town's mayor Maurice Belikoussou and its parish priest Gbenai.

Thirteen of Central African Republic's 14 armed groups signed Monday's accord, which was brokered by the Roman Catholic Sant' Egidio peace group.Thousands have died and roughly a fifth of Central Africans have fled their homes amid the religious and ethnic conflict that broke out following the ouster of President Francois Bozize in 2013. An estimated 41,000 people there have fled for their lives.

Witnesses said houses were looted and set on fire during the clashes. "The armed groups should cease the hostilities and put an end to people's suffering".

Tuesday's clashes broke out just a day after the auto government and 13 of the 14 rebel groups agreed to an immediate ceasefire.

"The total number of internally displaced persons has therefore surpassed the 500,000 mark".

In December 2015, Pope Francis shunned security concerns to ride in an open-top vehicle across what was then the front line in the vicious civil war to visit a mosque in a part of the capital known as PK5; the last Muslim enclave in Bangui.

"The priority now is a cease-fire", said Vlad Monteiro, a spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The office of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected previous year, applauded on Tuesday what it said was "an historic accord". "Those who signed are mocking the people".

  • Leroy Wright